JAKARTA (AFP) — Indonesian security forces were bracing for an extremist backlash on Monday after the execution of three Islamists over the 2002 Bali bombings.
Tensions were high after Islamic radicals including members of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional terror network blamed for the attacks promised retribution for the executions during emotional burial services.
"We're still on alert for any security disturbances after the executions," national police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira told AFP, saying the readiness level was at its highest.
Indonesia stepped up security at tourist spots and embassies ahead of the execution of the bombers behind the attacks on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
Amrozi, his brother Mukhlas and Imam Samudra were executed by firing squad shortly after midnight on Sunday on a prison island off southern Java.
Their funerals in their home villages turned into rallies for hundreds of Islamic extremists bent on jihad or "holy war" with the West, even though the vast majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderates.
Hardline cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the co-founder of Jemaah Islamiyah who was jailed on a conspiracy charge related to the bombings before being released in 2006, led prayers at the burial service for Amrozi and Mukhlas.
Noor Huda Ismail, an expert on Jemaah Islamiyah, which was allegedly behind the Bali carnage, said he saw more than 20 JI militants from Malaysia and Indonesia at one of the funerals.
"That occasion unified these people to share contacts and for making strategies," he told AFP after attending the chaotic funerals for Amrozi and Mukhlas in Tenggulun, east Java.
Several senior JI militants are believed to be at large in Indonesia, including Malaysian-born extremist Noordin Mohammad Top, the self-proclaimed leader of a group called Al-Qaeda for the Malay Archipelago.
Police said they had arrested two men on the weekend for making bomb threats in protest at the executions. The suspects had no links to any known militant organisation, they said.
The Australian and US embassies received bomb threats last week, along with shopping centres and hotels around Jakarta.
Australia, which lost 88 nationals in the Bali attacks and had its embassy here car-bombed in 2004, has warned against unnecessary travel to Indonesia. The United States has told citizens in the country to keep a "low profile."
Until the end, the bombers expressed no remorse for their "infidel" victims and claimed they wanted to die as "martyrs."
Sentenced in 2003, they launched at least four failed legal challenges, which delayed their executions and kept them in the media spotlight.
"Even on death row they continued to make news, obviously aided by the prison authorities... Only in Indonesia can a convicted terrorist awaiting execution become a media darling," The Jakarta Post said in an editorial.
The vast majority of Indonesian Muslims had little sympathy for the militants.
"Someone who killed others will not die as a martyr unless they waged a war in the name of religion. They were not fighting for religion," Umar Shihab, the head of the country's top Islamic body, said Sunday.
Sidney Jones, a terrorism analyst with the International Crisis Group in Jakarta, said the government's bizarre handling of the executions had increased the threat of reprisal attacks.
"If the government had denied the Bali bombers access to the media from the time they were first convicted, the risk (of violent retaliation to their executions) would have been lower than it is now," she told The Jakarta Post.
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