December 12, 2013 / 12:21 PM / 6 years ago

Indonesia warns of possibly violent Christmas

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looks on as fire-fighters work to put out a fire at the State Secretariat building inside the presidential palace compound in Jakarta March 21, 2013, in this picture provided by the Indonesian presidential palace. REUTERS/Abror Rizki/Indonesian Presidential Palace/Handout

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s president has ordered police to step up security around churches over the Christmas holidays following reports of possible attacks.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did not name the groups, but it was a clear reference to Islamic extremists. Though major terror groups have largely been crushed following a series of deadly attacks in the early 2000s, small Muslim extremist cells still operate.

“I have received a report from the chief of police of the existence of the elements who plan to disrupt security and order in certain places,” the presidential palace quoted Yudhoyono as saying on Thursday before flying to Japan for a regional summit.

The warning comes amid growing concerns of a rise in religious intolerance in the world’s largest Muslim population, with the government criticised for not doing enough to protect religious minorities, including Christians, from hardline Islamic groups.

“We will deploy two thirds of our personnel and safety apparatus at churches and other places of worship, shopping centres, tourist and entertainment spots that are frequented by the public (over the Christmas and New Year holidays),” national police chief General Sutarman said.

Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Nick Macfie

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