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Australia Issues Travel Warning for Indonesia - 2003-09-24

Australia is issuing a travel advisory for its citizens to avoid Indonesia at the first anniversary of the Bali bombings, which killed more than 200 people. Many Australians plan to attend commemorative services honoring their compatriots who were killed in the attack, but authorities in Canberra are warning the risk of terrorist activity remains high.

Eighty eight Australians died in the Bali bombings last year. Australian Prime Minister John Howard and the opposition Labor leader Simon Crean are among the 1,500 survivors and relatives of the dead who are planning to travel to the Indonesian island on October 12 for commemorative services marking the first anniversary of the terrorist attack.

Nevertheless, the Australian government is warning that the anniversary ceremony could become a terrorist target. It believes the radical Islamic organization blamed for the Bali blasts, Jemaah Islamiah, has the "capability and intent" to carry out more attacks.

Police in Jakarta have issued similar warnings, saying there are strong indications that Jemaah Islamiah is ready to strike again. The group has suspected links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.

The head of Australia's spy agency, Dennis Richardson, says Indonesian authorities are boosting security for the anniversary. But he warns of serious risks.

"The threat to Australian interests in Indonesia as of today remains assessed as high," he said.

Two bomb blasts ripped through a nightclub district in Bali last October, killing more than 200 people, most of whom were foreign tourists.

Most of the Bali bombers have been caught. Indonesian courts have convicted three men. Two have been sentenced to death and one to life in prison. The trials are continuing.

A spokesman for Australia's foreign ministry says that survivors and families of the victims might ignore the travel advisory. Australians are still reeling from the attacks, and some view their attendance at the anniversary ceremonies as a necessity.