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SE Asia terror alerts widen

Indonesian members from Jemaah Islamiyah rally in Jakarta.  There are fears the group may launch attacks soon.
Indonesian members from Jemaah Islamiyah rally in Jakarta. There are fears the group may launch attacks soon.

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JIHAD IN ASIA
A CNN Special Report by Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa  
SPECIAL REPORT
War against terror: Southeast Asia front 

CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- Citing intelligence reports of planned terrorist attacks by Muslim militants, Australia and New Zealand have widened travel warnings to more countries in Southeast Asia.

The new advisories follow a wave of travel alerts encompassing Southeast Asian, Mideast and African nations made in the wake of the suicide bombings in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Monday.

Late Thursday, Australia added Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor and Brunei to the list of countries where extreme caution should be exercised.

A similar warning was issued by New Zealand to its citizens traveling to, and living in, Southeast Asia.

The advisories are similar to U.S. alerts issued earlier this week for Malaysia, the Philippines, and Kenya. (Malaysia warning)

The United Kingdom has also banned all flights to Kenya and advised Britons in the African nation to take care because of "a credible terrorist threat to Western interests" -- a warning criticized by Kenya as "extreme." (Kenya threat)

The Australian advisory said its citizens in those countries should avoid demonstrations, large crowds, and public places like bars and restaurants which are frequented by Westerners.

"We continue to receive reports that terrorist elements in the region are planning attacks," Australia's foreign affairs department said.

Thai scorn

New Zealand said the threats were regarded as real although they could not pinpoint specific targets or dates.

"In the wake of the recent terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia, there is concern that similar attacks may be made in Southeast Asia by Jemaah Islamiyah, which is known to have links to al Qaeda and other extremist organizations (there)," New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff said in a statement issued Thursday.

But Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra poured scorn on the new warnings and denied his nation was a potential target for attack.

"Australia itself is also a target. I would warn Thais visiting Australia to be careful because this country is a target too. They should only travel to safe cities or spots," Thaksin told reporters on Friday with a rye smile on his face.

Australia and New Zealand, as well as Britain and the U.S., continue to advise against all non-essential travel to Indonesia.

"There continues to be a high risk of terrorism directed against Westerners throughout the country. If you are already in Indonesia you should consider leaving if your presence is not essential," the British advisory states.

The U.K. and U.S. also have warned its nationals against travel to parts of the Philippines.

The fresh warnings are another blow to the beleaguered tourism industries in Southeast Asia which have already been hit by the impact of the SARS virus, Iraq war and October 12 Bali bombings.


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