Police chief says terror threat high ahead of Bush's visit to Indonesia

Saturday, November 18th 2006, 2:17 pm
By: News On 6

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) Indonesian police warned Saturday that the threat of an attack by al-Qaida-linked militants has increased sharply ahead of President Bush's visit there.

Bush arrives Monday in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, for talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that will touch on the Middle East crisis and the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the cause of mounting anger among Indonesia's 190 million Muslims.

Though most practice a moderate form of the faith, hard-liners are gaining ground and Jakarta's police chief, Maj. Gen. Adang Firman, told reporters that the threat of an attack by militants had ``escalated sharply'' in recent days.

He did not elaborate or say if a plot by the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah had been uncovered.

The terror network has been blamed for a series of attacks targeting Western interests in Indonesia since 2002, including nightclub and restaurant bombings on the resort island of Bali and blasts at the Australian Embassy and the J.W. Marriott Hotel in the capital.

More than 240 people were killed, many of them foreign tourists.

Jemaah Islamiyah has been crippled by hundreds of arrests in recent years, but one of its alleged leaders and most deadly operatives, Noordin Top, is still at large, so ``we have to remain vigilant,'' said intelligence chief Syamsir Siregar.

On Monday, more than 18,000 police will be deployed in the hilly city of Bogor, where Bush and Yudhoyono will meet.

Islamic groups and students have vowed to come out in full force to protest Bush's visit. They have held small but rowdy demonstrations in cities nationwide almost every day this week, including a rally Saturday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.

Asked about the terrorism threat, Widodo Adisucipto, a government minister overseeing law and order, said extra ``security precautions had been taken.''

``There's no reason to panic,'' he said.