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Singapore Says Militant Groups Planning More Terror Attacks in Asia  - 2004-08-27

Singapore's security minister has warned against complacency in Asia's battle against terrorism, saying the recent lack of attacks should not be misread to mean that the fight has been won. Although dozens of militants have been arrested across the region, experts are warning there is a real threat, particularly in Indonesia. Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Security and Defense Friday sounded a warning about terrorism. Tony Tan says Southeast Asia is in danger of becoming complacent, because there have been no major terrorist attacks in more than a year.

Terror experts say, although militant networks have been devastated by arrests, driven further underground by ever more coordinated and sophisticated surveillance, the groups still have the will and ability to strike.

Indonesia is believed to be the home of one of the most dangerous groups, Jemaah Islamiyah, which authorities say was behind both the 2002 Bali bombings and the attack on the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta last year.

Marty Natalegawa, a spokesman for the Indonesian government, believes the region has to strike a balance, so fear does not reign.

"Of course, we all should be mindful and constantly vigilant to the constant threat of terror in the region, and, especially, the wider issue of security in the region,” Mr. Natalegawa said. “But at the same time, we should not commit the other folly of exaggerating the nature of the threat and living lives of constant fear."

Security officials say militants are still being trained in camps in the southern Philippines, despite attempts to shut them down. The militants are then filtering back across the porous maritime border into the vast Indonesian archipelago, where they have a greater chance of hiding undetected.

Intelligence agencies have identified a number of likely potential targets across the region. Most of them, including embassies, foreign corporations and places like shopping malls and hotels, where large numbers of foreigners congregate, have had their security significantly increased.

Most terror attacks in Southeast Asia have been concentrated in Indonesia and the Philippines, but some observers say the militant groups are becoming more international in their outlook, and can be expected to expand their theaters of operations.