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Indonesia tightens security for Christmas, New Year

Authorities to deploy 250,000 personnel across the country following recent arrests of terror suspects

Indonesia tightens security for Christmas, New Year

A member of the Indonesian K-9 police squad searches a church in Malang, East Java province in this Dec 24, 2016 file photo. Indonesian police on Dec. 22 announced plans to deploy some 250,000 security personnel across the country during Christmas and New Year holidays. (Photo by Aman Rochman/AFP)

Published: December 22, 2017 10:09 AM GMT

Updated: December 22, 2017 10:12 AM GMT

Indonesia will deploy 250,000 security personnel across the country ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations, particularly in Christian-majority areas, authorities said Dec. 22.

The number deployed will be almost double that of last year and will include 80,000 troops.

Many volunteers from moderate Muslim groups will also be on hand if needed, they said.

The move follows the recent arrests of 20 suspected militants and amid fears Indonesia could be flooded by extremists returning home after fighting for the Islamic State group in the Middle East.

"We have not detected any specific threat by terrorist groups," National Police chief Tito Karnavian said on Dec 21 when announcing the security plan.

However, "we must remain vigilant, there could be lone wolves or groups who could launch an attack," he said.

Speaking about the recent arrests of terrorist suspects Tito said, "We launched a pre-emptive strike.

"We arrested most of those that we considered having the potential to launch terror attacks," he said, without elaborating.

In 2016, police foiled plans by an IS-linked group for a Christmas suicide bombing after they discovered a cache of bombs in a house on the outskirts of Jakarta and killed three suspected militants.

According to authorities, security will be prioritized in Christian-majority provinces such as East Nusa Tenggara, North Sumatra, North Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua.

In the predominantly Catholic province of East Nusa Tenggara, police chief Agung Sabar said more than 4,170 security personnel will be on duty.

"A number of snipers will be placed in areas that are considered most vulnerable," he told ucanews.com Dec. 22.

"I’ve ordered firm action to be taken if anyone tries anything during Christmas celebrations," he said.

Reverend Emmy Situmorang Milos, a Protestant pastor in Manado, North Sulawesi, said local Christians felt reassured by the increased security.

"Even though this province is often regarded as a vulnerable place for terrorism, we usually have a peaceful Christmas," she said.

"Nevertheless, we always coordinate with the government just in case," she said.

Many Muslims, who have volunteered to protect churches over the festive season, will also assist police.

Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, chairman of the Ansor Youth Movement, the youth wing of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization — Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said his group members stand ready if Christians or police ask for help.

"In many areas, our group has coordinated with Christians to support them in maintaining security," he said, adding that last year they mobilized nearly 2.5 million members across the country.

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