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Indonesia on Alert Against Possible Terror Attacks

A senior Indonesian official has warned that terrorists are planning new attacks in the next few months.

Indonesia's coordinating minister for security and political affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, sounded the warning at a conference in Jakarta.

He said that Indonesia's army and police are taking precautions against the threat of terrorism before the New Year's celebrations and the general elections being held next April. He says that 240,000 security personnel will be involved in preventing attacks during the elections.

Terrorists from Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorist group affiliated with the al-Qaida network, have carried out a number of attacks in Indonesia. The group is blamed for last year's Bali bombing, in which more than 200 people died, and August's attack on the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, which killed 12.

Last week, the U.S. embassy in Jakarta issued a warning that Westerners could be targeted by terrorists in the weeks around Christmas and the New Year.

The warning says that there is a particularly high potential for attacks in the coming weeks on places where Westerners often congregate, including hotels, shopping centers, schools and places of worship.

Members of Jemaah Islamiyah mounted a nation-wide bombing campaign against churches on Christmas Eve 2000, killing 19 people.

Dozens of suspected militants have been rounded up during the past two years, several key JI members remain free, including the head of the group's armed wing, its chief financier, and its most dangerous bomb-maker.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and is overwhelmingly moderate. But political analysts say the past five years of political upheaval and continuing corruption have created a fertile recruiting ground for extremist groups.