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Indonesia raises security bar for Christmas, New Year

Authorities to deploy 160,000 personnel to secure churches, nearly double the number assigned last year

Indonesia raises security bar for Christmas, New Year

Policemen guard the compound of St. Mary Immaculate Parish Church in Surabaya, capital of East Java province, following a suicide bombing by two brothers in the parish’s car park on May 13, 2018. (Photo: Ryan Dagur/ucanews)

Nearly 160,000 security personnel will be deployed to try and make upcoming Christmas and New Year celebrations in Indonesia safe, according to a police official.

The number deployed will be almost double that of last year when nearly 90,000 security personnel guarded about 50,000 churches across the country.

National Police Traffic Corps chief Istiono said police, military personnel and members of government agencies will guard churches and vital tourism sites during the celebrations.

“These are our targets which we need to focus on. We want to make sure that everything will run peacefully there,” he told journalists.

Stanislaus Riyanta, an intelligence analyst from the University of Indonesia in West Java province, said authorities should not let their guard down in light of recent attacks in the country. 

He pointed to a bomb attack on a police headquarters in Medan in North Sumatra in November and the stabbing of Security Minister Wiranto a month earlier as examples.

The latter attack was attributed to a local terror outfit called Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), linked to the Islamic State terror group. 

“There might be opportunities for JAD members to launch attacks as Christmas and New Year celebrations are favored targets,” Riyanta said.

More than 100 suspected terrorists have been arrested by police since January this year.

 

Security is being stepped up at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Indonesia’s second-largest city Surabaya.

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The church fell victim to a terror attack on May 13 last year when two brothers blew themselves up, killing a parishioner and a policeman.

“We will work with policemen and military personnel as well as members of Banser to guard our parish church,” said Fransiskus Xaverius Ping Tedja, coordinator of the parish security desk, adding that the church will be provided with metal detectors.

Banser is part of the Ansor Youth Movement (GP Ansor), the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia.

GP Ansor chief Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said about half of the group's seven million members “stand ready to help guard churches during the celebrations.”

“To protect followers of other religions, including Christians, means protecting Indonesia,” he said.

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