JAKARTA/BANGKOK Dec 23 Southeast Asian security
forces were on alert on Friday ahead of the Christmas and New
Year holidays after two bomb plots were foiled in Australia and
Indonesia and the arrest of suspected militants in Malaysia.
Australian police said on Friday they had prevented attacks
on prominent sites in Melbourne on Christmas Day that
authorities described as "an imminent terrorist event" inspired
by Islamic State.
The announcement came after an attack in Berlin in which a
Tunisian suspect smashed through a Christmas market in a truck
on Monday, killing 12 people.
In Indonesia, where Islamic State's first attack in
Southeast Asia killed four people in Jakarta in January, at
least 14 people were being interrogated over suspected suicide
bomb plots targeting the presidential palace in Jakarta and
another undisclosed location, police said.
Anti-terrorism police killed three suspects in a gunfight on
Wednesday on the outskirts of Jakarta.
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country,
would deploy 85,000 police and 15,000 military staff for the
Christmas and New Year period, police said.
Moderate Indonesian Muslim groups were helping authorities
secure Christmas celebrations amid heightened religious tension
after the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama,
went on trial suspected of blasphemy against Islam.
Hardline group Islamic Defenders Front swept into shopping
centres in Surabaya, East Java, last week to make sure Muslim
staff were not forced by employers to wear Santa hats or other
In West Java, a group stopped a Christmas event as it was
being held in a public building rather than a church.
In Jakarta, around 300 volunteers from Nahdlatul Ulama,
Indonesia's biggest moderate Muslim group, will join police in
"The focus is (protecting) against terrorism, especially in
Jakarta and Bali, because these are the traditional targets,"
Indonesia police chief Tito Karnavian told reporters.
Police in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where Islamic State
claimed responsibility for a grenade attack on a bar on the
outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in June, said this week they had
arrested seven people for suspected links to the militant group.
Police will monitor transport hubs, entertainment centres
and other tourist hotspots.
"We try not to have too much physical presence in public and
focus more on prevention," deputy home minister Nur Jazlan
Mohamed said. "People should feel free to enjoy their holidays."
Thailand plans to have more than 100,000 police on patrol
until mid-January, police said, adding it was an increase from
last year, without giving details.
Thailand's deputy national police spokesman Kissana
Phathancharoen said no intelligence pointed to a possible attack
but "we will not let our guard down".
Multi-ethnic Singapore, a major commercial, banking and
travel hub that is home to many Western expatriates, will deploy
police at tourist and shopping areas. A police advisory said
bags and personal items may be checked.
A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore
said its churches had trained some members to watch out for
people looking suspicious. Central St Andrew's Cathedral has
installed more CCTV cameras and was doubling up security staff.
(Additional reporting by Rozanna Latiff in KUALA LUMPUR and
Aradhana Aravindan in SINGAPORE; Writing by Marius Zaharia;
Editing by Nick Macfie)