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1,500 police officers guard Indonesian churches during holidays

MEDAN — Police in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, are dispatching 1,500 officers to guard churches in the province during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

1,500 police officers guard Indonesian churches during holidays

The province of Aceh continued its show of religious intolerance with two church attacks in Oct 2015. Photo: Antara Photo via Jakarta Globe

MEDAN — Police in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, are dispatching 1,500 officers to guard churches in the province during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

“The security operation has already started at every church,” Commissioner Hamam Wahyudi of the Medan Police said yesterday (Dec 11). “We’re also coordinating with the Mobile Brigade (riot police unit).”

The measure is necessary because of a heightened risk of terror attacks in Indonesia, Mr Wahyudi said.

“Church leaders and their congregations have to immediately report any suspicious items or people they see,” he said.

In 2000, a coordinated series of bombings hit churches across the country on Christmas eve, killing 18 people. The bombings were allegedly carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah.

Officials have said there is a heightened risk of attack in Indonesia, linked to the Islamic State movement, which is believed to have attracted several hundred Indonesians thus far.

North Sumatra has a majority-Muslim population but has a large Christian minority of around 30 per cent. Data from the Religious Affairs Ministry shows the province had the largest number of Christian houses of worship in the country in 2008, with almost 5,400 Protestant and nearly 1,700 Catholic churches for a total number of 2.6 million and 450,000 worshipers, respectively.

Neighbouring Aceh province was the scene of several church attacks earlier this year. JAKARTA GLOBE

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