SYDNEY (Thomson Financial) – Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Monday the threat of a terrorist attack in Indonesia was serious and justified an upgraded travel warning.
The foreign affairs department on Sunday warned Australians to stay away from Indonesia because of fears that an attack could be imminent.
Howard said travel advisories were only issued on strong intelligence.
‘All terrorist threats are serious and the problem is if you don’t warn them and something happens
you are legitimately criticised,’ he said in a television interview.
A total of 92 Australian holidaymakers were killed in two bomb attacks on the popular Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002 and 2005.
‘We are the last country in the world to want to say anything unnecessarily serious about Indonesia, because Indonesia is a friendly country, but we have above all of that a greater obligation to warn our citizens,’ Howard said.
‘They have to stay away from places frequented by Westerners, that’s the advice we give.’
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the travel warning was not based on information about a specific attack.
‘We don’t have any information designating a specific target or for that matter a specific time of a terrorist attack,’ Downer told national radio.
‘We have a constant flow of information about possible terrorist activity in Indonesia.’
The recent arrest of high ranking operatives in the Islamic extremist group blamed for the Bali bombings, Jemaah Islamiah (JI), was a reminder of the ongoing threat, he said.
The head of JI, Zarkasi, and the leader of its military wing, Abu Dujana, were arrested by Indonesian anti-terror police last month along with six other suspected militants.
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