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US Embassy in Jakarta Issues Warning to Americans

The U.S. Embassy in Indonesia is warning Americans traveling to a popular tourist destination to be vigilant, because of possible threats of violence against Westerners. But the Indonesian government says it sees no reason to justify such a warning.

In a statement released Thursday, the U.S. Embassy says it has received credible information that Westerners may be targets of violent acts in and around the city of Yogyakarta. The warning urges American citizens to take what it calls "appropriate precautions."

An embassy official in Jakarta says the warning is a "warden notice" issued about a specific situation. The official says it should not be confused with travel advisories issued by the U.S. State Department, which deal with a broader spectrum of security issues. The official declined to go into further detail about the nature of the threat.

Roughly 500 kilometers southeast of the capital Jakarta, Yogyakarta is a popular spot for tourists. From there visitors can travel to ancient temples and to see some of Indonesia's famed rice terraces. The city also hosts a variety of cultural events, such as traditional dance programs.

Yogyakarta is the base of a militant Islamic group, the Laskar Jihad, or the Holy War Force. In the past, the Laskar Jihad has never threatened foreigners with violence.

Wahid Supriadi, a spokesman from the Foreign Ministry, says the government is not aware of any reason Yogyakarta should be considered dangerous. "I don't see any strong reason for the U.S. Embassy to issue a travel warning like that," he said. "Because, as far as we know, there has not been any real threat against foreigners, especially in a place like Yogyakarta."

Mr. Supriadi acknowledges that visitors would be wise to avoid some areas in Indonesia where separatists are fighting for independence or where there is violence between ethnic groups. But those areas are isolated. "There might be some concern in some places like Aceh, Maluku and Papua, but I don't feel that really that there is any real threat or danger in tourists coming to Indonesia," said Wahid Supriadi.

The warning comes the week after the U.S. Embassy closed for four days because of threats of attacks coinciding with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. No such attacks occurred.