Indonesia boosts Christmas security over potential terror threat

The South-east Asian nation has significant numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists who have been targeted by extremists

TOPSHOT - This picture taken on December 24, 2018 shows Indonesian Christians attending mass on Christmas Eve at a stadium in Surabaya, the country's second largest city. / AFP / Juni Kriswanto
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Indonesia will station nearly 200,000 security personnel around the country before Christmas to guard against potential terror attacks, police said on Tuesday.

The South-east Asian nation of 260 million people has significant numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists who have been targeted by radical groups.

The authorities said 192,000 police and military personnel would secure Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations across the country – including in easternmost Papua, a predominantly Christian region.

The operation, which comes after a recent spate of attacks, involves more forces than the 167,000 personnel put on duty last year.

"As many as 10,000 personnel will be deployed in Jakarta", said police spokesman Argo Yuwono

"Based on intelligence data, there are potential risks... so we're taking preventive measures but we are also ready to take proactive action," he said.

Many past attacks in Indonesia, which has dozens of groups loyal to ISIS's violent ideology, have been against police and other state symbols. The authorities routinely arrest ISIS-linked suspects.

In October Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered increased security after two militants from an ISIS-linked terror group stabbed his chief security minister. The minister survived the assassination attempt.

Last month a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police station in Sumatra, killing himself and wounding six civilians.

Hundreds of suspects were rounded up after the attacks, which came more than a year after a suicide bomber family killed a dozen congregants in attacks at churches in Indonesia's second-biggest city, Surabaya.

On Tuesday the country's new chief security minister Mohammad Mahfud said the high security was also meant to ensure Christian communities could celebrate Christmas without being targeted.

"We need to anticipate as early as possible things like intolerant incidents and burning down houses of worship," the minister told reporters.

Groups frequently raid shopping malls and other public places to protest against Christmas displays or seasonal attire worn by Muslim employees.