Australia Lowers Threat Warnings for Two Indonesian Provinces

SYDNEY ~ Australia has downgraded the threat of a terror attack in two provinces of Indonesia, but continued to warn citizens against travelling to the country.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel advisory said the level of its overall advice had not changed, but that the risk of violence in Central Sulawesi and Maluku provinces had diminished.

Australia had been under pressure to lower its travel warning against Indonesia after Washington last month lifted its warning against the country, citing “objective improvements” in the security situation.

Under the advisory issued Friday, Australia recommends that citizens consider their need to travel to Indonesia, including the resort island of Bali, due to the “very high threat of terrorist attack.”

The travel advisory was first issued after the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002, in which 88 Australians died.

Another four Australians were killed in suicide blasts at a Bali restaurant in October 2005, and the Australian embassy in Jakarta was the target of a bomb attack in September 2004.

“We continue to receive reports indicating that terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets, including Western interests and places frequented by foreigners,” the latest advisory said.

The notice said that despite recent arrests of “high level terrorist operatives” in the country, the official assessment was that terrorists were continuing to plan attacks.

However, the government lowered its stance on the provinces of Central Sulawesi and Maluku, dropping its advisory from do not travel to reconsider the need to travel, a foreign affairs spokesman said.

“This reflects an ongoing improvement in the security environment following years of communal violence,” he told AFP.

The security situation in Central Sulawesi remained unsettled, however, and there was a risk of bomb attacks and shootings, the advisory said.

Maluku, particularly Ambon, was subject to outbreaks of internal violence and bomb attacks, it said.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah welcomed the move, linking it to a visit earlier this month by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“Clearly we look at this as a positive move by the government of Australia and either it’s directly or indirectly the impact of the recent visit,” he said.

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