Security beefed up in Bali
Security in Bali has been heightened for the visit by the US warship USS Guardian at Benoa Harbor on Tuesday to thwart possible retaliation by al-Qaeda followers after the death of Osama bin Laden.
Three Balinese dancers welcomed ship commander Lt. Kenneth Brown and his 84-strong crew with the traditional Penyembrahma dance under the close watch of the Indonesian Navy and police.
Capt. Adrian J. Jansen, Naval Attache at the US Embassy in Jakarta, said the five-day visit was part of a diplomatic journey across Indonesia. Last April, the Guardian docked in Makassar, South Sulawesi.
“After we finish our visit in Bali, the ship will go to Surabaya for training exercises with the Indonesian Navy,” Jansen said.
He added that while in Bali, the ship’s crew would conduct various outreach programs.
“We may visit a few high schools in Bali and talk to Indonesian students about life in America, and answer any question they may have,” Jansen said.
The crew, he added, would also get to enjoy Bali. “It is a chance to see how beautiful the island is, and a chance to meet some of the great people here in Bali,” he added.
Col. I Wayan Suarjaya, the Indonesian Navy commander in Bali, said he expected the arrival of the US Navy vessel would mark stronger relations between the US Navy and its Indonesian counterpart. However, he was quick to add that the visit was not related to efforts to counter terrorist threats on the island.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika earlier ordered security be increased at key entry points to the island, tourist destinations, hotels, entertainment centers and other public places in anticipation of possible terrorist attacks following the news of the death of Bin Laden on Sunday.
“Bali has always been a target for terrorist threats as thousands of foreign and local visitors holiday here,” Pastika said.
Bali Police deployed 8,000 officers to safeguard the island since the Easter holidays.
“We are still on very high alert,” police spokesman Sr. Com Sri Harmiti said.
In Jakarta on Tuesday, presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said that “in the context of universal security we have to guarantee the safety of the community, not necessarily in response to [the death of Bin Laden]”.
“Security officers are conducting their duty well to safeguard public places or other locations considered to be prone to terrorist attacks,” he added.
In Yogyakarta, police have also been on high alert to anticipate any possible retaliation by al-Qaeda followers. Two-thirds of the police force in the city have been deployed to safeguard areas such as tourist sites.