December 19, 2015 / 7:49 AM / 2 years ago

Indonesia to deploy 150,000 security personnel for year-end celebrations

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Fireworks explode above a floating mosque during New Year's Eve celebrations at Losari beach in Makassar, Indonesia's South Sulawesi province December 31, 2012.Yusuf Ahmad

CILANGKAP, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesia will deploy more than 150,000 security personnel and several religious organizations to safeguard churches and public places around the country during Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations, the military chief said late on Friday.

Indonesia, with the world's largest Muslim population, has already stepped up security and surveillance in some areas in the wake of attacks in Paris last month that killed nearly 130 people and for which militant group Islamic State claimed responsibility.

"We call on all communities, such as Islamic and Hindu youth organizations, to participate in safeguarding churches during Christmas," armed forces chief Gatot Nurmantyo told reporters at the national military headquarters on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta.

"Some of the youth organizations have stated their readiness," he added.

Over 80 percent of Indonesia's population is Muslim, but the country recognizes five other religions including Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

Police in Indonesia will be on their highest alert level between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2, national police chief Badrodin Haiti told reporters earlier this week.

Military and police troops will be on standby at airports, train stations, houses of worship, and public celebrations, Haiti said, as millions of people travel across the archipelago for the holidays.

The government has warned that Indonesians fighting for IS in Syria and Iraq could attempt to return and mount attacks, though security officials have said they do not see credible or specific threats of an attack here in the near future.

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Additional reporting by Jakarta bureau; Editing by Michael Perry

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