Alert on terror bomb in Jakarta

Police chief says militants planning attack; Australia issues travel warning.

ANOTHER terrorist attack in Indonesia is in the ‘advanced stages’ of planning, Australian intelligence indicates.

Canberra issued a travel alert yesterday after Indonesian police chief Da’i Bachtiar said militants are believed to be in contact with others overseas to plot a strike.

‘There has been an increase in the intensity of their communication,’ General Da’i told reporters.

Indonesian police say coded SMS and e-mail messages indicating that a bombing is planned in Jakarta have been intercepted.

The warnings follow a spate of travel alerts from foreign embassies here over the last month.

Australia last month urged its citizens to avoid Indonesia because of possible suicide bombings, particularly at embassies, international schools, office buildings and shopping malls.

Days later, the United States shut down all its diplomatic missions in the country amid heightened fears that they were being targeted by militants. In another alert more than a week later, the US warned of planned bombings in an unnamed hotel lobby and the Plaza Menteng mall in Jakarta.

There have been mixed reactions from the Indonesian authorities. They believe some of the alerts were the result of an attempt to cause confusion by Malaysian terrorist bomb maker Azahari Husin. But the latest warning appears to have been corroborated by Jakarta. ‘The information we have picked up with the Australians is very credible,’ said a senior police official. ‘Western interests in the capital continue to be the main target of the terrorists.’

The Australian travel advisory warns: ‘Attacks could occur at any time, anywhere in Indonesia and could be directed at any locations known to be frequented by foreigners.’

It suggested that international hotels frequented by Westerners in Jakarta are being targeted.

Australians were last month advised to avoid all travel to Aceh and Maluku provinces. ‘Australians in Aceh and Maluku should depart,’ Indonesian police said.

The Straits Times reported in April that the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah was staking out at least two major Jakarta hotels.

A source close to the network had disclosed that one of the hotels was discounted as a target as it was used by too many Indonesians. The other, in the business thoroughfare, remained a plausible target as it had many foreigners.

Police sources said the terrorists have shifted strategy, and were now more likely to use suicide bombers. Such attacks are favoured over car bombings for their greater impact in enclosed areas and much lower cost, they said.

Gen Da’i said the terrorists were believed to be in Indonesia, but ‘it’s hard to arrest them because the country is so large and there are always people who help them to hide’.

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