Indonesian Police Guarding Churches

December 24, 2006

Author: Ali Kotarumalos

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Wire Service: AP

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Tens of thousands of police deployed at churches across Indonesia Sunday amid warnings by Western nations that Islamic militants may be plotting Christmas bombings.

Indonesian officials downplayed the alerts, which have become something of a tradition themselves since Christmas Eve bombings at churches across the country in 2000 killed 19 people.

U.S. embassies in Jakarta and Australia warned the threat of an attack over the holiday season was "serious" and "credible" and that foreigners could be targeted, though it did not say what the alert was based on.

"The Australians and the Americans can say what they want, that is democracy," said Indonesia's police spokesman Col. I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana. "But up until now, we have not seen any frightening signs."

Nevertheless, 18,000 officers have been deployed at churches in the capital, Jakarta and tens of thousands more will be on duty elsewhere in the sprawling nation, he said.

Bomb squad officers planned to search Jakarta's cathedral for bombs and Christmas Eve worshippers at major churches would be frisked before they entered, he said.