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Security Analysts: Asia-based Businesses Need to Increase Vigilance

A police armored vehicle is parked outside a Starbucks cafe after an explosion in Jakarta, Indonesia, Jan. 14, 2016.

Security analysts said corporations are reassessing their security profiles following the attacks in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta amid fears of an escalation of violence by Islamic militants on "soft targets" in South East Asia.

The January 14 attack in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta that left eight people dead and 20 wounded has set off alarm bells in the corporate community, and governments, too, which are also looking to step up cooperation in tracing and identifying militants who return from the Middle East.

Neil Fergus, chief executive of Sydney-based consultancy Intelligent Risks, said the business community has underestimated the potential impact in South East Asia from militant groups such as Islamic State and its forerunner al-Qaida.

“We’ve got some urgent requests even as we speak from Fortune 500 companies to give them advice on their footprint across East Asia and particularly South East Asia," Fergus said. "I think that international security has underestimated the likely impact of Islamic State and al-Qaida in this part of the world which is extraordinary.”

Insurance coverage

Fergus said leading Australian companies are required by law to provide the necessary insurance coverage to protect senior corporate members and local nationals employed by the companies.

The Jakarta attack in a key business and diplomatic area has led to fears among analysts of an escalation in bloodshed from groups aligned with Islamic State, especially on so-called "soft targets."

Steve Vickers, chief executive officer of a Hong Kong based consultancy specializing in political and corporate risk, said militants appear increasingly likely to go for such vulnerable targets.

“If you take Jakarta – an attack on a Starbucks (café) -- it’s these attacks I think we’re going to see a bigger move to softer targets," Vickers said. "What we’re actually looking at sadly as the year advances is the sort of attacks that will become more prevalent will be the soft targets in public areas with some notional attachment to foreigners.”

Detailed plans in place

He said Asia Pacific corporations should have in place detailed plans for monitoring senior executive travel in the Asia Pacific together with “solid corporate security."

Analysts said there are “grave concerns” of a repeat of the deadly 2002 bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, carried out by the locally based Jemaah Islamiya, that claimed more than 200 lives.

Australia is among those calling for greater regional cooperation in information sharing and monitoring the hundreds of Austral-Asia based men and women who have traveled to the Middle East to fight with Islamic State.