11/17/2005, 00.00
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Terrorists to target churches over Christmas

Police Chief warns churches and public buildings are sensitive targets over Christmas. Terrorist Azahari's brother begs forgiveness for sibling's crimes. New terrorist training camps are found.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian national police Chief General Sutanto has issued a nation-wide order to tighten security measures around public buildings and churches against possible terrorist attacks that might occur during the Christmas season. All local commanders should remain vigilant and not underestimate the danger that Islamist terrorists might plant bombs near churches and public buildings during the religious holiday.

The police will set up country-wide checkpoints and village chiefs will be required to report the presence of any outsider who spends more than 24 hours in their communities.

Jakarta police chief Inspector General Firman Gani said that whilst "it is not possible to guarantee total security in the large cities, we are doing our best". However in the capital, police "will come down hard on anyone who refuses to submit to house checks".

In a city of nine million people where wages have been eroded by inflation many people end up living with friends and relatives often illegally and unbeknownst to landlords and other tenants.

This is being done because protective measures for Christian places of worship have become necessary as threats against Christian communities mount.

An anonymous phone call yesterday claimed that the Mardi Yuwana Catholic Educational Centre in Depok, 30 kilometres south of Jakarta, was going to "suddenly explode when you least expect it".

This warning joins mounting evidence released by police that the late terrorists Azahari bin Husin was planning attacks against churches in Malang and that the Bethlehem Church in Puhsarang, Kediri (East Java province) was going to be targeted.

Concerns over the threats have pushed religious leaders in target areas to meet with East Java police Chief Inspector General Edi Sunarno to discuss what might be done.

In the meantime, Azahari bin Husin's family has broken its silence. "On behalf of the whole family in Malaysia, I would like to say that we are very sorry for the misconducts done (by Azahari bin Husin)," said his brother Bani bin Husin. "We ask Indonesians for forgiveness, primarily the Bali bomb victims—both killed and injured—and all the victims in the Hotel Marriott bombing and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta."

The terrorist's brother came to Indonesia from Malaysia to collect the dead man's remains for burial and spoke live on local television. Indonesia's Foreign Ministry authorised the repatriation.

In Maluku police found two Islamist paramilitary camps on West Seram Island. Located some five kilometres from the nearest residential area, the compounds were used by members of the Laskar Mujahidin or mujahidin troops.

Members of the anti-terrorist unit that raided them found nothing, except signs that they had been occupied. Moreover, police Captain Endro Prasetyo said that local residents very often heard shots coming from the area.

Similarly, mujahidin presence in and around the island's Mount Naga and Mount Lidah Anjing has been confirmed.

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