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Christian Post (12/27/05) – Christians in Indonesia remain alert as the New Year approaches in response to recent attacks from Islamic extremist in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Bomb squads searched churches nationwide before Christmas Eve services on Saturday and remained watchful for suspicious items around foreign missions as a precaution against terrorist attacks.

“No reports of terror have been received here. I haven’t heard any reports from other regions of security disturbances but we will remain alert throughout New Year’s festivities, particularly on Jan. 1,” Untung Ana Yoga, the city police spokesman, told Agence France Presse early Sunday morning.

Shopping malls and areas with large crowds are also under police surveillance, the French newspaper AFP reported.

Indonesians were also warned of possible gift-wrapped bombs or explosives in public places and kidnappings as extremists might switch to other tactics to avoid heightened security.

Police fear that Islamic extremists could take revenge during the holiday season – Christmas in particular – for the death of the Malaysian bomb-making expert and key member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) Southeast Asian militant group, Azahari bin Husin, who was shot and killed by a police raid last month, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Documents found in Azahari’s East Java hideaway showed extremists planned to attack over holiday period, reported Channel NewsAsia International.

The extremist group JI has a history of terrorist attacks including a bombing campaign targeting churches and priests that killed 19 people in 2000 and the 2002 Bali blasts that killed 202 people. Saturday was the fifth anniversary of the 2000 bombings.

Furthermore, there has been a chain of attacks on Christians, especially in the last two months. On Oct. 29, three Christian schoolgirls were beheaded in the town of Poso and on Dec. 8 an Islamic militant torched a church in the Indonesian Province of North Sulawesi .

Christians comprise about five percent of Indonesia ’s more than 220 million people.