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New Year's Security Tightened in Asia - 2003-12-31

Security has been tightened in parts of Southeast Asia due to fears of possible terrorist attacks during the New Year's holiday. Foreign embassies are warning their citizens to take precautions and avoid large gatherings.

Indonesian officials are warning of possible new bomb attacks during New Year celebrations and have put more than 165,000 police on high alert. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Marty Natalegawa says authorities have particular concerns about two terrorist suspects still at large in the country. "We have at least a couple of individuals of interest yet to be captured. These are two Malaysian nationals who are known to have ill intentions. They are basically bomb makers," he says. "They are still at large and we are trying to capture them."

The two suspects, Azahari Nurdin and Noordin Mohammad Top, are believed to belong to Jemaah Islamiyah - the regional terrorist network linked to al-Qaida.

Jemaah Islamiyah masterminded the bombings on Bali Island last year and at a Jakarta hotel in August. The Indonesian government has arrested several dozen suspects and convicted more than a dozen of the terrorists involved.

Security forces are also on alert in the Philippines, which experienced a series of bombings around the Christmas holidays three years ago. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Karen Kelly, says its warning to U.S. citizens in the archipelago follows a global alert recently issued by Washington. "That is a worldwide caution to U.S. citizens [issued] in light of increased information on possible terrorist activities," she says. "And we are, as are American citizens around the world, increasing our vigilance."

In Thailand, authorities have mobilized additional police to guard embassies, hotels, bus and railway stations and tourist attractions.

Thai officials say 1,000 additional police will be stationed downtown Wednesday night when tens of thousands of people are expected to gather along with senior political leaders to mark the countdown to the New Year.