Indonesia fears Christmas terror attacks

Indonesia will deploy 17,000 security officers in the capital during Christmas and New Year's celebrations, security officials said Wednesday, reiterating that terrorists were believed to be plotting attacks. "We have information that terrorists are planning activities in large cities, like Jakarta," said Sjamsir Siregar, chief of Indonesia's intelligence agency, though he provided no details. "We have taken steps to restrict their movements." Five years ago, suspected militants from the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group bombed 11 churches on Christmas Eve, killing 19 people.

The group has also been blamed for the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, and the 2003 and 2004 attacks on the JW Marriott hotel and the Australian Embassy that together killed 242 people. Indonesia, with 220 million people, is the world's most populous Islamic nation.

Maj. Gen. Firman Gani, chief of Jakarta police, said he would deploy 17,000 security officers over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. He said the death last month of Azahari bin Husin, who was allegedly Jemaah Islamiyah's key bomb-making expert, had significantly reduced the terror threat.

But he noted Noordin Top, who is said to be the group's top strategist, and other suspected terrorists were still on the run. "The potential for a strike is still there," he said. "It is not impossible that one or two (terrorists) can commit the attack," reports the AP. I.L.

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