12/30/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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'Serious' threats made against 31 churches in Indonesia

by Benteng Reges
Warning sent via text messaging announces Kupang will suffer the same fate as Bali on New Year Eve. The area is largely Catholic and Protestant. More than 2,000 soldiers and police officers are deployed.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Police is on high state of alert in the predominantly Christian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (East Tenggara Timor or NTT, the eastern part of the island of Timor) after a series of threats was made against local churches to coincide with New Year celebrations.

On December 28, Radio Timor Voice received an anonymous text message (SMS) via cellphone announcing imminent bombings on the island. It read: "On New Year Eve, 31 churches in NTT's capital of Kupang shall receive the same bomb blasts as Bali did last October. [Signed:] From the Jemaah Islamiiyah Chief of the eastern region, Jihad for the Great Prophet Muhammad."

NTT Police Chief Robert Bellarminus Sadarum said that the threat must be considered "a serious and imminent danger" for the whole Christian community of the island, where Catholics and Protestants represent the majority of the population.

But the NTT chapter of the Indonesian Ulemas Council strongly denied claims that the Jemaah Islamiiyah is operating in the province.

Security officials however are not taking any chances and have deployed about 2,250 soldiers and police officers.

Police Chief Saduram said that "tighter security will be imposed around churches on New Year Eve".

The police is also urging Kupang residents to be on the look-out for any suspicious outsider and report them.

In the meantime, a statement released by the Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adi Sutjipto warns of the real possibility of terrorist attacks in the coming days. His ministry is currently inquiring into possible links between recent bank robberies in Yogyakarta, Jakarta, and Tangerang and terrorism.

According to Widodo, proceeds from the robberies might finance terrorist activities due to shortages in foreign contributions

Retired General Ansyaad Mbai, who now heads the Anti-Terrorism Unit in the Political, Legal and Security Affairs Ministry, said that the 2002 Bali bombing was preceded by a major robbery in Serang, Banten province.

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