12/16/2004, 00.00
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Indonesia orders security clamp down after terror warning

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesian authorities on Thursday ordered a nationwide security crackdown after several foreign governments warned that terrorists were preparing to launch attacks against Western targets ahead of Christmas.

Australia's warning was unusually specific, saying it had "credible information" that terrorists could be targeting the Hilton Hotel chain in the country. Australian flag carrier Qantas and Australian Airlines said on Thursday they would offer full refunds and waive cancellation fees to any passengers wishing to cancel Christmas flights to Indonesia after new warnings of potential attacks.

The United States, Britain, New Zealand and Japan also issued their own warnings for an increased risk of attacks, but did not mention specific targets.

"The U.S. Embassy reminds Americans that the terrorist threat in Indonesia continues and may increase over the holiday period," the U.S. Embassy said in an e-mail to expatriate Americans. "In the days leading up to the Christmas and New Year's holidays, the Embassy continues to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against a wide range of targets."

In the last few years militants tied to al-Qaeda have slaughtered Christians during Christmas celebrations. In 2000, a series of fundamentalist attacks killed 19 people injuring dozens of others. But despite numerous arrests, violence goes on unabated.

Currently, the police is tracking six men who last Sunday attacked two Protestant churches in Palu (central Sulawesi). Eyewitness accounts have enabled the authorities to draw composite pictures of the attackers.

"We are doing everything in our power to increase surveillance," said a spokesman for the Jakarta Police. "Intelligence operations are underway to guarantee the security of Christmas and New Year celebrations.

In October this year, suspected militants from the al-Qaida linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group attacked the Australian Embassy, killing 10 people. The same group were blamed in a blast at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, killing 12 people as well as the 2002 bombings on Bali island that killed 202 people, 88 of them Australians.

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