The Australian government has issued a new travel warning for Indonesia over the festive period after a string of foiled terror plots.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is urging travellers to exercise a “high degree of caution” if visiting the country and to be particularly vigilant in the tourist hotspot of Bali.
It comes as three suspected terrorists were killed after a bomb was thrown at police officers during a raid on a house in South Tangerang on the outskirts of the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Wednesday.
Authorities said the group was in the final stages of planning an attack on Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
“Indonesian authorities continue to arrest terrorists who have allegedly been in the advanced stages of attack planning,” a DFAT statement read. “The terrorist threat level in Indonesia remains high.
“Terrorist attacks could occur anywhere at any time in Indonesia, including Bali,” it said. “Be particularly vigilant during the Christmas and New Year period as gatherings of Westerners could be targeted.”
Last week, Indonesian police arrested three would-be perpetrators, who planned to use a female suicide bomber to carry out an attack in Central Java.
A week earlier, authorities arrested four Islamic militants in another attempt to use female suicide bombers to attack the Presidential Palace changing of the guard ceremony on December 11.
Fourteen suspects have been arrested for terror plots in the past two weeks and have been linked to Indonesian militants fighting with ISIS in Syria, police said.
According to University of Sydney lecturer for tourism and DFAT advisory board member, Dr David Beirman, a warning like this must be taken seriously.
“People are going to say ‘the government is being paranoid again,’ but unfortunately on this particular occasion I think they’ve got it right,” Dr Beirman said.
“I think because of the history of Australia with terrorism in Bali, after the Bali bombings in 2002 and then the attacks on restaurant attendees in 2005, the Australian government very understandably is extremely sensitive to anything that goes on in Bali – and it has to be.
“Hopefully nothing is going to happen, but when you hear about things like this you need to show a little bit more caution.”
How to stay safe in Indonesia
Dr Beirman warned if you are planning to visit Indonesia this holiday season, to not travel independently even if you’ve been before.
“Usually what I tend to suggest to people, is rather than try and do it yourself, work through a very reputable tour operator and there’s a good reason for that,” he said.
“Should there be a problem, that reputable tour operator is committed to actually making sure their passengers are protected and if necessary they can also be evacuated.
“If you do it independently you might get a better deal financially but you’re also putting yourself at serious risk.
“Under the current circumstances I think it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
A number of Australians have been killed in terrorist attacks in Indonesia, most notably the the bombings of two nightclubs in the tourist district of Kuta in Bali.
The attack killed 202 people including 88 Australians with a further 209 were injured.