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US Authorizes Non-Essential Embassy Staff to Leave Indonesia - 2001-09-27

The U.S. Embassy in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, has authorized its non-essential staff to leave the country. The move comes amid fears of possible attacks against U.S. interests by extremist elements in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta confirm that all non-essential personnel and all families are authorized to leave Indonesia, if they choose to do so.

The decision comes as the State Department warned Americans that they should consider leaving Indonesia or exercise maximum caution if they stay.

The U.S. travel warning says the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States have "significantly added" to security concerns of American citizens in the country.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Its government is secular, but there is strong anti-American sentiment among some Indonesian groups, which oppose expected U.S. attacks on terrorist targets in Muslim countries, specifically Afghanistan.

Some small radical groups have vowed to launch a holy war against U.S. interests if Afghanistan is targeted. But even the largest Islamic groups, which are moderate, have also appealed to Washington not to react militarily against Afghanistan.

Ken Conboy, a security consultant in Jakarta, says his company has recommended to clients to be extra careful about how they go about business. "Just looking here in Jakarta, don't go to the U.S. Embassy unless you have to, stay away from the rec area unless you have to go there," he said. "If you have to see U.S. officials, meet outside the embassy. I honestly don't think it's going to be too bad, unless you get caught at the wrong place at the wrong time with a demonstration going by."

A number of small demonstrations have taken place almost daily outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and its consular office in Indonesia's second city, Surabaya. So far no violence has broken out.