The U.S. Embassy in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, has authorized its nonessential 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 nonessential personnel and all families are authorized to leave Indonesia, if they choose to do so. Officials say the plan is not an evacuation, but a "voluntary departure." The decision comes as the State Department issued its latest travel advisory Wednesday, recommending that Americans consider leaving Indonesia. Those that choose to stay are urged to "exercise maximum caution." The travel warning says the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States has "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. Indonesia's largest Islamic groups, which are moderate, condemned the terrorists strikes in the United States. But they have also appealed to Washington not to react militarily against Afghanistan. A handful of smaller, radical Islamic groups have threatened to launch a "jihad" or "holy war" against the United States if it carries out an attack.
Ken Conboy is from Control Risks Group, a security consultancy firm based in Jakarta. Mr. Conboy says his company has recommended to clients to be extra careful about how they go about business in Jakarta. "Just looking here in Jakarta, don't go to the U.S. Embassy unless you have to, stay away from the rec [recreation] area unless you have to go there. 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," he said.
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. Indonesian authorities have pledged to secure U.S. interests in the country. So far no violence has broken out.