Police monitoring terrorist sleeper cells in Indonesia in lead up to Christmas and NYE

Police in Surabaya following the terrorist attacks on 3 churches in May 2018. PHOTO: Juni Kriswanto / AFP
Police in Surabaya following the terrorist attacks on 3 churches in May 2018. PHOTO: Juni Kriswanto / AFP

The Indonesian National Police says it’s taking preventative measures to prevent terrorist attacks during the upcoming festive season.

National Police Spokesman Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo today said that the police’s Densus 88 anti-terrorism squad is monitoring suspected terrorists who may be laying low for a while but may be called into action on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

“We are monitoring sleeper cells who have the potential to disrupt the activities of the public towards the end of the year,” Dedi said, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Dedi added that the authorities are prioritizing their efforts on keeping 13 provinces secure, including Jakarta, Bali, and North Sumatra, as they have large Christian populations.

“[Places where] there are many churches are our first priority,” he said.

The police heightening security efforts for Christmas and NYE is not without historical precedence. Large scale police operations to guard Christian houses of worship has been a constant feature every year since terror groups Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah carried out a series of coordinated bombings in churches around Indonesia on Christmas Eve in 2000, killing 18.

Also read: Remembering Riyanto, the Muslim youth who sacrificed himself to save a church from a bomb on Christmas eve

The upcoming Christmas and NYE holidays will be the first since the horrific suicide bombings in churches and a police station in East Java in May. After those terrorist attacks — which were claimed by ISIS — Indonesia passed tougher anti-terrorism laws giving the police more power to take pre-emptive action against terror suspects.

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