Australia Warns of Possible Terror Plots Against Indonesia

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
160225-ID-tourists-1000 Tourists walk past armed police on a street at Kuta Beach, Bali, Jan. 22, 2016.

Indonesian police said Thursday they were watching out for threats and taking seriously an Australian warning about possible terrorist plots in Indonesia.

“The threat is always there, but we never know when an attack will occur. Therefore, we are always on alert,” Inspector Gen. Anton Charliyan, the National Police spokesman, told BenarNews.

Security has been increased and police are on alert as officers continue to hunt down suspected militants, he added.

Earlier in the day, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) updated its travel advisory for Indonesia, a neighboring country and popular tourist destination among Australians.

“Recent indications suggest that terrorists may be in the advanced stages of preparing attacks in Indonesia,” DFAT’s latest advisory said.

On Sunday, the Australian government issued a similar warning to its citizens traveling or living in Malaysia.

Thursday’s advisory warned Australians to “exercise a high degree of caution” while in Indonesia, including in Bali, “at this time due to the high threat of a terrorist attack.”

The warning did not explain how an attack or attacks would be carried out, but officials indicated that they had been carefully planned.

DFAT “continues to receive information that indicates that terrorists may be planning attacks in Indonesia, which could occur anywhere at any time,” the advisory added, noting that people should be “particularly vigilant at places of worship and during significant holiday periods.”

Intelligence Sharing

Australia issued the warning exactly six weeks after a terrorist attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group left eight people dead in downtown Jakarta, including four of the suspected assailants.

Since the Jan. 14 attack, Indonesian police have arrested dozens of suspected militants throughout Indonesia, including nearly 20 believed to be linked directly to that plot.

Last Friday, Densus 88, the Indonesian police’s elite anti-terrorist unit, arrested five suspected militants in the East Java city of Malang. All five are being held at Jakarta Police Headquarters.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Arrmanatha Nasir said that while Australia’s travel advisory had changed, its security concern remained at level two.

The Australian system has four levels, starting with ‘normal’ at level one. Level two calls for citizens to be careful and vigilant.

“The degree of the caution is not increased because of the updated travel advisory,” Arrmanatha told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta.

“Indonesian security authority is always professional and on alert. Until now we have not received information from the Australian authorities regarding a growing threat,” he said.

Indonesian and Australian security forces cooperate closely and are well coordinated, Arrmanatha said.

Australian authorities also share information with Indonesian police.

In December, intelligence provided by the Australian Federal Police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation helped Indonesian authorities foil domestic terror plots that were supposed to be carried out during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season.

Monitoring continues

To prevent terrorist attacks, Anton said police continued to monitor people who have recently returned to Indonesia or will be leaving to join armed groups abroad. The security forces also monitor those who are suspected of being involved in paramilitary training in the conflict areas in Indonesia or overseas, he said.

Anton added that close cooperation between agencies was important, especially cooperation with prisons. Many terror plots are planned inside prisons by terrorists or other convicts.

“We have limitations in monitoring in prisons,” Anton said, adding that monitors also needed cooperation from religious and community leaders to fight the spread of radical ideology.

“Banks also needs to monitor the financial transactions and the flow of funds that support terrorism, Anton said.

“The threat of terrorism is real, therefore we will strengthen Densus 88 with better facilities, update their skills and bring additional new members,” he added.

During his recent visit to the United States, where he participated in special summit between the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said that only about 329 citizens out of a population of 252 million had traveled to Syria to join IS.

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