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Terror Alert Closes US Embassy in Indonesia - 2002-09-10

The American Embassy in Indonesia has been closed on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks because of terrorist threats. Officials canceled a ceremony Wednesday commemorating the victims of those attacks.

Security was tight outside the deserted U.S. Embassy compound in Jakarta Tuesday after the facility was closed indefinitely because of terrorist threats. The U.S. Consulate in the eastern port city of Surabaya and an American social facility in Jakarta were also closed.

The American Ambassador to Indonesia, Ralph Boyce, told reporters that while the al-Qaida terrorist network is still on the run, the group is still far from defeated.

"We received another graphic example of that in just the past few hours with the news about the credible information about a specific terrorist threat against our embassy in Jakarta and the consulate-general in Surabaya," said the ambassador.

The envoy would not confirm if the threat had come from al-Qaida cells, which U.S. officials say exist in the region, or from what he called freelance terrorist groups that are not related to the international network.

Ambassador Boyce says that one of the most significant changes since the terrorist attacks in the United States last year has been in the understanding of the nature and threat of terrorism.

"More and more people understand and recognize that terrorism is not just a threat to the United States," he explained. "It's a threat to all nations and people. And increasingly people understand that terror can never be justified."

The U.S. envoy says people around the world have come to understand the dangers of intolerance and extremism and the importance of mutual understanding. And he says the world has responded by building what he called a mighty coalition to defend itself.

Following the attacks, there was an outpouring of sympathy in Indonesia for the victims, but the embassy became the scene of anti-American protests after the U.S. government launched an offensive in Afghanistan against al-Qaida and its Taleban allies.

The embassy was closed on two occasions before the September 11 attacks because of terrorist threats.

Indonesia is home to an estimated 200 million Muslims, most of whom espouse religious tolerance and reject violence. Nevertheless, several extremist groups are said to operate in the vast archipelago, and some of their leaders are reported to have had contacts with al-Qaida members.