Amid warnings of possible terrorist attacks, more than two dozen hotel security staff dressed in red Santa Claus outfits used metal detectors to inspect cars and visitors entering a five-star hotel in the center of the capital, Jakarta.
As policemen with machine guns looked on, some of Jakarta’s Santas frisked visitors and opened bags to check for any unwanted Christmas gifts.
Nyoman, one of 27 security guards dressed as Santa Claus at the Mandarin Hotel, said: “We’re doing this to celebrate Christmas. Hopefully, we can do this again next time.”
Indonesian police have been ordered to tighten security across the country amid warnings of possible attacks during the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
Some 61,000 security personnel have been deployed throughout the 17,000-island archipelago, a senior police official said on Friday.
Indonesia has already seen sporadic bombings blamed on the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiah, a militant Southeast Asian network.
Security has been tightened
Police across Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country are hoping to prevent a repeat of 2000 Christmas Eve bombings of churches in several Indonesian cities which killed 19 people.
Police Major-General Firman Gani said the Southeast Asian group Jemaah Islamiyah might retaliate for last month’s death of bomb-making expert Azahari bin Husin, who was gunned down in a police raid.
“The terrorists have said they will use the momentum of Christmas and the New Year celebrations to carry out attacks,” he said, adding that there were also indications that Jemaah Islamiyah may be changing its tactics.
“They may not use a car bomb or explosives in bags any more,” he said.
“They could be carrying small bombs that can be thrown at a building or into a crowd.”
Over the next several days, more than 17,000 soldiers and police will be deployed at churches nationwide, he and other intelligence officials said. Muslim groups have also offered to help protect Christian churchgoers over the holidays.
Additional guards and patrols will be dispatched to protect high-ranking government officials, diplomats and foreigners.