Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 5 News List

US issues terror warning for Borneo island

ALERTJust as the US embassy warned of attacks targeting foreigners, a church in southern Malaysia was vandalized in yet another attack on Christian houses of worship

AP , KUALA LUMPUR

Soldiers approach a jetty at Kapalai Resort during a patrol in the Celebes Sea, east of Borneo, on March 13, 2007. Police stepped up security after the US embassy in Malaysia warned on Friday that criminal and terrorist groups were planning attacks in Sabah.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Malaysia plans to summon the US ambassador to explain why his embassy issued a travel warning about possible terror threats on Borneo island, while police insisted yesterday that the region was safe.

The US warned its citizens on Friday that criminals and terrorists could be plotting attacks on foreigners in Sabah state. The travel advisory on the US embassy Web site urged Americans to “avoid or use extreme caution” when traveling in Sabah.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said the ministry would summon US Ambassador James Keith tomorrow to explain the warning, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.

A Foreign Ministry official could not immediately comment. A US embassy spokeswoman declined to comment, citing protocol.

Sabah police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim said he had been “taken aback” by the warning and insisted the area was safe. He said state police had nonetheless stepped up patrols and monitoring.

“We have advised our men to be vigilant,” Noor Rashid said.

“But as far as I’m concerned Sabah is safe … We have assessed the situation. We didn’t trace any terrorist activity.”

The travel warning said there were “indications that both criminal and terrorist groups are planning or intend acts of violence against foreigners in eastern Sabah, notwithstanding the government of Malaysia’s increased ability to detect, deter and prevent such attacks.” The advisory noted that al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants based in the southern Philippines — a short boat ride from Sabah — have kidnapped foreigners from Sabah’s secluded resort areas in the past.

Meanwhile, a church in southern Malaysia has been vandalized, apparently the latest in a string of attacks on Christian houses of worship in this Muslim-majority nation, police said yesterday.

Eleven churches — as well as one Sikh temple — have been damaged since a court ruled late last month that non-Muslims can use the word Allah to refer to God. ­The ­decision angered many Muslims, who say the word is exclusive to their religion and its use by others could confuse Muslims into converting.

Officials at a church in southern Negeri Sembilan state found a window at their building smashed late on Friday, said Saiful Azly Kamaruddin, a district police chief. He said police were still investigating, but the attack appeared to be vandalism.

Police have stepped up patrols and deployed more plainclothes officials in the area, he said.

Earlier on Friday, police charged a Malaysian student after allegedly posting comments on Facebook about throwing a gasoline bomb.

Mohamad Tasyrif Tajudin, 25, allegedly wrote, “You want me to throw a petrol [gasoline] bomb there? We can negotiate the price” in a recent Facebook discussion over the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims. Many of the churches vandalized were hit by Molotov Cocktails.

He was charged under the Communications and Multimedia Act for improper use of the Internet, which carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine if found guilty, deputy public prosecutor Dusuki Mokhtar said.

“He was not the one who prepared the firebombs or committed the crime. But he misused Facebook with the intention to cause disturbance. Posting such remarks is sensitive and dangerous,” Dusuki said.

Mohamad Tasyrif didn’t enter a plea and will remain in police custody as the case was postponed until tomorrow, he said.

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