August 23, 2018 / 5:53 AM / 3 months ago

Australian consulate in Indonesian city boosts security after threat

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Australia’s consulate in the Indonesian city of Surabaya boosted security measures on Thursday after a social media post urged militants to “kill” one of its diplomats there.

The scare comes just weeks after Australia opened the consulate in Indonesia’s second-biggest city.

Back in May, Islamic State claimed responsibility after Indonesia suffered its worst militant violence in more than a decade, when a series of suicide bombings in Surabaya killed about 30 people, including the attackers.

On Thursday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs updated its travel advisory, noting that consulate staff in Surabaya would not be attending an event at the city’s Airlangga University “due to heightened security concerns”.

Two security sources in Indonesia, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the threat stemmed from a social media posting that urged Indonesians in Surabaya and East Java province to “Kill this Australian official”.

The message was linked to a photo advertising a function at the university for Australian alumni and due to be attended by consular officials.

“Australia is a member of the international coalition against Islamic State which massacred thousands of Muslims. Revenge the blood of Muslims,” said the message, which was reviewed by Reuters and verified by officials as the source of concern.

One security source in Indonesia said the posting on the Telegram app, which later spread to other social media platforms, appeared to have originated in the Netherlands.

The source told Reuters there was no evidence of “anyone local responding to this message.”

Since the suicide attacks in the city three months ago, police have detained nearly 250 suspected militants and killed 21 others in a nationwide crackdown.

Indonesia has grappled with violent Islamist militancy for almost two decades, and in 2004 a bomb attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta killed 10 Indonesians and wounded more than 100.

To safeguard the Asian Games, currently underway in the capital Jakarta and the city of Palembang on Sumatra island, authorities have deployed 100,000 military and police.

Neither the threat on social media, nor the Australian advisory, said that the Asian Games was a target.

Even so, the advisory says the Australian government continues to “receive information indicating terrorists may be planning attacks in Indonesia.”

The overall level of Australia’s advice was not changed. It warns travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution” in Indonesia.

Reporting by Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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