JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia planned to deploy 250,000 security personnel across the country ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations, particularly in Christian-majority areas.
The number deployed will be almost double that of last year and will include 80,000 troops, authorities said Dec. 22. Many volunteers from moderate Muslim groups also will be on hand if needed, they said.
The move follows the recent arrests of 20 suspected militants and amid fears Indonesia could be flooded by extremists returning home after fighting for the Islamic State group in the Middle East, ucanews.com reported.
“We have not detected any specific threat by terrorist groups,” national police chief Tito Karnavian said Dec. 21 in announcing the security plan.
“We must remain vigilant, there could be lone wolves or groups who could launch an attack,” he added.
Security will be prioritized in Christian-majority provinces such as East Nusa Tenggara, North Sumatra, North Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua.
In the predominantly Catholic province of East Nusa Tenggara, police chief Agung Sabar said more than 4,170 security personnel will be on duty.
“A number of snipers will be placed in areas that are considered most vulnerable,” he told ucanews.com Dec. 22.
“I’ve ordered firm action to be taken if anyone tries anything during Christmas celebrations,” he said.
The Rev. Emmy Situmorang Milos, a Protestant pastor in Manado, North Sulawesi, said local Christians felt reassured by the increased security.
“Even though this province is often regarded as a vulnerable place for terrorism, we usually have a peaceful Christmas,” she said.
Groups of Muslims have volunteered to assist police in protecting churches over the festive season.
Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, chairman of the Ansor Youth Movement, the youth wing of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, said members were ready if Christians or police ask for help.
“In many areas, our group has coordinated with Christians to support them in maintaining security,” he said, adding that last year the organization mobilized nearly 2.5 million members across the country.