By Jerry Norton
Website tips on the best ways to attack the United States embassy and
movements by suspected members of violent Islamic groups were factors
in the closure of U.S. diplomatic facilities in Indonesia, experts
said on Friday.
When the closures were announced on Thursday, an embassy statement
referred to terrorist threats without offering details. An embassy
spokesman has declined to elaborate, but the facilities will be closed
until further notice.
A New York Times report attributed the closings to the appearance on a
militant Web Site of a diagram of the embassy, showing the location of
the ambassador's office and other sites, and advising, in the
Indonesian language, on the most effective means to attack the
sprawling low-rise complex.
The Web Site posting "obviously caused the embassy enough concern to
justify them closing," a Western security expert based in Indonesia
Jakarta police spokesman Tjiptono said the closure "was because we had
received information on the movement of Azahari (bin Husin) and
Noordin M. Top ... and the movement of their men in the capital."
Police say Azahari and Top, both Malaysians, are among the masterminds
behind a spate of bombings in Indonesia and are key members of Jemaah
Islamiah, a group seen as the regional arm of al Qaeda.
Attacks against Western targets in Indonesia blamed on Jemaah Islamiah
include blasts at Bali nightclubs in October 2002 that killed 202
people, mostly foreigners, and one last September outside the
Australian embassy in Jakarta that killed 10.
National police chief Da'i Bachtiar linked the Jemaah Islamiah
fugitives with the embassy diagram.
"Our investigation on the Azahari group ... prompts an analysis that
there has been communication among this group as a preparation to
conduct another attack. From that analysis, there is information or a
picture that refers to a map of the U.S. embassy in Jakarta. Probably,
this is what the U.S. authorities thought as a plan to attack the
embassy," he told reporters.
But he also suggested the development could be a diversion.
"This can be a trick. Why attack a target so openly like that and
A second Western security expert suggested the U.S. facility closures,
which included consulates in Bali and Surabaya and an office in Medan,
reflected several factors.
"It looks like there's sort of a whole string of things ... converging
at the same time," said Ken Conboy, country manager at Risk Management
Advisory in Indonesia.
Aside from the Jemaah Islamiah movements and diagram, which he
considered "rather amateurish," he cited the recent Newsweek magazine
article alleging U.S. military abuse of the Koran.
The article, subsequently retracted, "did generate an awful lot of tension.
It got people out in the streets."
A visit to Washington this week by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono and reports Indonesians trained in violent tactics by Muslim
militants in the Philippines had returned were other concerns, Conboy
In addition, he added "there's the fact that Jemaah Islamiah averages
about a strike a year, and it's been about eight months since the last
one, so that's more than enough time for them to plan another."
The other Western security expert expressed similar sentiments, saying
it is likely "a matter of when rather than if" another attack will
(With additional reporting by Telly Nathalia)
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Lisa also reports, elsewhere in this
issue that Homeland Security is quite ineffectual -- almost useless --
at dealing with the cyber attack to end all cyber attacks, coming
soon to an ISP near you. Read on ... PAT]