Bali beefs up security, but tourists unfazed

Police on Indonesia's resort island of Bali stepped up security in tourist hotspots yesterday after five suspected terrorists were shot dead in raids, but tourists remain unfazed by the incident.

"We beefed up security in all places around Bali especially in strategic places such entertainment spots, hotels and malls. What's clear, we are on alert," Bali police spokesman Hariadi said.

"We guarantee maximum security for tourists. They should not be alarmed and should continue to enjoy their holiday," he added.

Muslim-majority Indonesia has been rocked by a series of attacks staged by regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah in recent years, including the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people.

Police said that on Sunday evening they gunned down five people in two separate raids in the Denpasar and Sanur areas in the south of the island, which is popular with tourists for its beaches and lush interior.

Over one hundred members of the elite Detachment 88 counter-terrorism force were seen in Sanur where three suspects were killed at a villa, a correspondent saw.

The men "planned to carry out an act of terrorism and several robberies" and are believed to be part of a group who killed an officer in a spectacular 2010 bank robbery to raise funds for terrorist attacks, police said.

The men "are linked to previous terror investigations," national police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution told reporters.

Tourists were unfazed by the news and many were seen shopping, eating at the restaurants and sunbathing on the popular Kuta beach strip.

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"I'm not scared at all. The news will not stop me from visiting clubs. There's plenty of security everywhere," Australian tourist Margaret Campbell, 61, said.

The 2002 Bali bombings thrust Indonesia into the front lines of the "war on terror". Blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, the blasts forced Jakarta to accept US and Australian help to train local counter-terror police.

The underground network splintered under the pressure of arrests and killings, giving birth to even more radical offshoots and loosely affiliated elements that continue to undermine Indonesian security.

"The suspects were raising funds for their terror activities and Bali is now their target to source for funds," Nasution said.

In the raids, police seized two firearms and dozens of bullets from the suspects, who were planning to rob a moneychanger and a jewellery shop and attack a bar, he told AFP.

"There are several locations they have been surveying in Bali, which could likely be the targets of attack. A cafe is one of them because it is frequented by foreign tourists," he added.

Another police spokesman on Sunday identified the cafe as "La Vida Loca" in the upmarket Seminyak area.

Nasution said police "are not ruling out" the possibility that the group might launch an attack on Friday, a public holiday to mark the Hindu new year.

Nyepi, as the day is known locally, will see the island shut down as Bali's Hindu majority are confined to their homes for a day of reflection free from work, play, talking -- and for some even eating.

Australia on Monday revised its travel advisory for Indonesia to include the latest development, and repeated its warning to reconsider the need to travel to the country due to the "very high threat of terrorist attack".

"Police have stated publicly that terrorist suspects remain at large and that they may seek to attack Western targets," it said.

AFP

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