Hilton Tightens Security at Hotels in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Hilton hotels in Indonesia tightened security Thursday at their three properties after authorities ordered a nationwide security crackdown following warnings from foreign governments that terrorists were preparing to launch attacks against Western targets.

Australia's warning was unusually specific, saying it had ``credible information'' that terrorists could be targeting the Hilton Hotel chain in the country. The United States, Britain, New Zealand and Japan also issued warnings but did not mention specific targets.

At the Hilton in Jakarta, police armed with automatic weapons stood guard next to Christmas trees hung with tinsel, searching bags and checking cars. Hotel officials said they had not seen a mass exodus of guests, but that some groups had canceled functions.

Suspected al-Qaida linked militants have launched three bloody bombings on Western targets in the world's most populous Muslim nation in the past three years.

Despite scores of arrests, local police and foreign governments have repeatedly warned more attacks were likely. Several countries warn their citizens not to travel to the country at all.

``We are doing our utmost to increase our vigilance,'' said Jakarta police spokesman Ciptono, who goes by a single name. ``In light of the threat, the national police chief has ordered the Christmas and New Year's security operation, which was supposed to start Saturday, to begin immediately.''

Ciptono was referring to the police's annual Christmas security operations, which normally involve the deployment of tens of thousands of officers to public places, including shopping malls, churches and hotels.

On Wednesday, Australia issued a fresh terror warning and the United States issued one for Americans living in Indonesia. They were followed by advisories from New Zealand, Britain and Japan. Each warned of an increased risk of attacks.

``The U.S. Embassy reminds Americans that the terrorist threat in Indonesia continues and may increase over the holiday period,'' the U.S. Embassy said in an e-mail to expatriate Americans. ``In the days leading up to the Christmas and New Year's holidays, the Embassy continues to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against a wide range of targets.''

Jakarta has complained that advisories are unfair in light of the global nature of terrorism, and that the panic they cause gives the terrorists a victory.

Hilton International Indonesia's chief operating officer Nizar Sungkar said Thursday he was ``surprised'' by Canberra's warning, but said that security at all the chain's hotels had been tightened.

``We are taking all necessary precautions,'' he told The Associated Press. ``We don't want to put anyone at risk.'' He said that the hotel felt there was no need to specifically inform guests of the threat.

Hilton hotels in Indonesia operate under license from

Last year, suspected militants from the al-Qaida linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group attacked the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, killing 12 people.

The same group were blamed in a blast outside the Australian Embassy in October this year that killed 10, as well as the 2002 bombings on Bali island that killed 202 people, 88 of them Australians.

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