Indonesia’s counter-terrorism chief has called on Australia to relax official warnings against travelling to his country, saying they don’t reflect current threat levels.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) travel advice for Indonesia, last updated on August 29, continues to warn of a “very high threat of terrorist attack”, particularly on the resort island of Bali.
But Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counter Terrorism Agency, said on Wednesday there was no reason why Australians should be concerned about travelling to Indonesia.
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“If I may recommend, there is no reason for Australia to worry to come to Indonesia. The Australian Federal Police know there is no reason,” he told AAP.
“I disagree with the opinion that Indonesia is a high risk for Australians now.”
It is possible the matter will be raised at an international meeting on de-radicalisation to be held in Bali this week, to be attended by Australian officials, including DFAT counter-terrorism policy section secretary Peter Shannon.
The DFAT website warns Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Indonesia.
“We consider that terrorist attacks are more likely to focus on places where large numbers of Westerners gather, including, but not limited to, tourist areas in islands such as Bali, as well as Jakarta and other places in Indonesia,” the website says.
“Attacks against Westerners in Bali and Jakarta indicate that these areas remain priority targets for terrorists.”
However, Ansyaad said the threat against Western targets had reduced significantly in recent years, including in Bali where 202 people including 88 Australians were killed in 2002 in Indonesia’s single most deadly terrorist attack.
“I can understand how concerned is the government of Australia in order to protect and to prevent Australian people being targeted by terrorists, but in fact for me I don’t see (there is a) risk,” he said.
The comments come after Indonesia’s Trade minister Mari Pangestu last week called for the travel warnings to be lifted, saying they did not reflect the progress made in combating terrorism in recent years.