High security alert in Jakarta after blasts

Extra guards for banks, embassies and hotels in wake of Sulawesi bombings

SECURITY was heightened in the Indonesian capital yesterday following deadly bombings in Central Sulawesi last Saturday.

Indonesian police paid close attention to various foreign establishments including embassies, hotels, banks and multinational companies even as two witnesses were detained late yesterday.

Armed guards were deployed around these establishments and there was a random search of cars as the authorities sought to prevent another terrorist attack.

Reports said police expect the two witnesses to offer vital clues to the identities of the two Sulawesi bombers. They were picked up in Poso, near the town of Tentena where the bombs went off.

An official from the state intelligence agency BIN told The Straits Times: ‘We have stepped up security given concerns that extremists might try something in Jakarta. We are taking preventive measures.’

Indeed, the security alert status in the capital had been raised over the past two weeks following repeated warnings from local and foreign governments that there could be a terrorist strike.

Two weeks ago, Australia urged its citizens to avoid travelling to Indonesia because of a warning by Jakarta police of possible suicide bombings.

Last Thursday, the United States shut down all its diplomatic missions in the country amid heightened fears that they were being targeted by extremists. But these are set to re-open today.

American officials had reportedly discovered a floor plan posted on an Internet website that gave instructions in Bahasa Indonesia on how to attack what was labelled a US diplomatic facility.

The details of the floor plan appeared to be flawed, but the posting was enough to convince US officials to close all four of its missions in the country.

Just two days after that move, the Sulawesi blasts occurred. Two explosions went off within minutes in a crowded market in the predominantly Christian town of Tentena.

The blasts killed 20 people and wounded at least 60.

Controversy still rages over who carried out Saturday’s bombings in Tentena.

Police investigators are speculating that it was the work of Jemaah Islamiah’s top bomb maker Azahari Husin.

Some observers, however, have blamed the attacks on the resurgence of sectarian strife that is simmering in parts of the country.

Although the bombings took place far away from Jakarta, they have triggered concerns about security in the capital.

Security officials held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss counter-terrorism measures in the capital.

A check by The Straits Times showed that several five-star hotels and major office buildings had tightened security.

At the Four Seasons Hotel, for example, security guards were deployed around the perimeter of the hotel complex to act as a deterrent.

At the Plaza 89 building, in the central business district, more security guards were deployed to screen visitors.

‘Over the past week, we have increased the number of personnel to anticipate the worst possible scenario that there could be a terrorist attack,’ said Plaza 89 security guard Andi R.

Mr Martin Hughes of the Gemela Group, a security consultancy that advises foreign businesses, told The Straits Times that several companies had requested security reviews of their premises and counter-surveillance training for their staff.

‘The Sulawesi incident has prompted even more concern,’ said Mr Hughes.

‘There is a real fear among the MNCs that extremists might target Jakarta again. Looking at the pattern and timeline of terrorist attacks in Indonesia over the past three years, who can blame these companies for being overly concerned?’

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