Jakarta admits second terror attack possible

Following FBI intelligence reports, it steps up security at airports, oil and gas fields, nightspots and shopping malls.

Indonesia has acknowledged the possibility of a second terror attack here and has upped security at entertainment spots, oil and gas installations and airports around the country.

Security chief Susilo Bambang Yudhono’s announcement follows recent intelligence from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that terrorist fugitive Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, had been planning small bombings in bars, cafes or nightclubs frequented by Westerners in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia.

‘From intelligence information, there are indications that there will be a second attack in a different part of the country,’ he told reporters here yesterday.

He did not say where the targets might be, except that police would be placed on high alert and deployed to safeguard vital installations such as airports and other public facilities.

In the capital, security checks were being tightened in shopping malls, hotels, offices and public places, with security officers using metal detectors to inspect all incoming vehicles and visitors.

Mines and Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said security was being stepped up at seven vital national projects.

These included the ExxonMobil and Arun natural-gas operations in Aceh, the Natuna gasfield in the South China Sea, the Caltex Pacific Indonesia operations in Riau province and the PT Freeport Indonesia gold and copper mine in Papua.

Diplomatic sources said Jakarta’s response, coming soon after fresh warnings this week from the US, Australia and Britain about further attacks here, suggested that the government was getting to grips with the severity of the problem.

‘It is a volte-face from the initial laggardness that was displayed by the Megawati administration. Previously, the government would not lend credence to such information,’ a senior diplomat said.

‘It has to now, because it cannot afford to have another Bali on its hands.’

The increased security is due to fears that there could be a violent backlash from hardline groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which the government suspects to be behind the Bali bombings.

Analysts said that, as the government closed in on cleric and alleged JI leader Abu Bakar Bashir, now in hospital, there had been concerns that his supporters may stage some sort of symbolic reprisal.

This could take the form of an attack in a large urban centre, possibly in Jakarta or other major cities such as Medan and Surabaya.

According to the latest report of the Jakarta-based Control Risks Group, there is ‘sound basis for such fears’.

More than any other Islamic boarding school in the country, graduates of Abu Bakar’s school in Solo have been implicated and convicted for a host of terrorist acts over the past 30 years.

Added to this mix is Hambali, his lieutenant and alleged deputy and operations chief of the JI.

Hambali’s threat to regional security appears to be growing following revelations from an Al-Qaeda operative in US custody that he planned to attack popular bars and nightclubs in South-east Asia.

According to news network CNN, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, who was arrested in Oman in March this year, told FBI interrogators that the fugitive wanted to conduct small bombings in entertainment spots.

That intelligence was passed on to US allies and may have contributed to recent actions and advisory warnings by Britain, Australia and other countries.

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