Foreign governments are warning travelers to avoid Jakarta on Friday due to a mass rally by hardline Muslim groups demanding the arrest of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”) for alleged blasphemy.
Organizers expect this rally to be bigger than a similar protest in Jakarta on Nov. 4 that drew about 100,000 people and turned violent after nightfall when protesters attacked police barricades, set fires and looted stores.
Foreign ministries of the United States, Australia and Japan issued warnings for their citizens to use caution in Jakarta from about 8 a.m. until the rally’s end, expected around 1 p.m., the Associated Press reported.
“Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence; and there exists the possibility that some extremist groups could take advantage of the Dec. 2 events to incite or carry out violence,” the U.S. Embassy said on its website on Thursday.
“You should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.”
As many as 22,000 security personnel will be on duty Friday, according to police, who revealed late last month that nine suspected terrorists had participated in the Nov. 4 rally. The men were arrested days later.
“Police have committed to detect the whereabouts of terrorist networks that may try to take advantage of the event,” National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.
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