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Australia Warns More Terrorist Attacks Likely in Indonesia  - 2004-09-11


Australia is warning its citizens to avoid travel to Indonesia as more terrorist attacks can not be ruled out. Thursday, suicide bombers targeted the Australian Embassy in Jakarta killing nine people and wounding 180 others. The Australian government is pledging more than $3 million to help investigators track down those responsible.

The Australian government's national security committee has been meeting in Sydney to discuss its response to Thursday's bombing of its embassy in Jakarta. The Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty, who just returned from the Indonesian capital, briefed senior ministers saying there is evidence that more suicide bombers may be plotting further attacks in Indonesia.

Australia has responded by issuing a new warning against travel to Indonesia.

Indonesia has beefed up security at Western embassies, but insists there has been no specific new threat of attacks. Authorities are hunting two members of the Islamic Southeast Asia terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (J.I) - including alleged Malaysian bomb maker Azahari Husin - believed behind the attack.

J.I., blamed for the bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali that killed more than 200 people in October 2002, has claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack on an Islamist website.

Australia's government has promised Indonesia $3.5 million to bolster the investigation.

The government is ordering security at Australian overseas missions upgraded as a result of the Jakarta attacks. Prime Minister John Howard says the bomb proofing of the embassy in the Indonesian capital - which he believed had saved many lives of those inside - would be used as a model for other diplomatic facilities.

Thursday's bombing came in the middle of a general election campaign in Australia. It has thrust national security to the top of the agenda.

Aldo Borgu from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute believes both parties will be careful to avoid political point-scoring in the aftermath of the Jakarta blast, mindful of the impact this year's bombings in Madrid had on the Spanish election.

"The real message that came out of Madrid was it wasn't so much the bombing that caused political repercussions, it was the fact that the conservative government tried to politically manipulate the issue to its advantage," he said. "And it was punished by the Spanish electorate as a result. I'd be surprised if either party is going to get heavily involved in this. Obviously, they'll all be saying the same thing - sympathy for those killed, the need to basically band together, assist the Indonesian government."

The latest opinion polls show the conservative government neck-and-neck with the left-of-centre Labor opposition ahead of the October 9 election.

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