Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hoax bomb threats instill fear

Terror groups and irresponsible individuals are spreading hoax bomb threats in Indonesian cities in the wake of last week’s Mega Kuningan blasts to instill fear and anxiety among the public, experts say.

Since the deadly bombings that ripped through the JW Marriott’s lounge (not the Syailendra Restaurant as previously reported) and a restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel last Friday, Jakarta has received at least four hoax threats at landmarks across the city.

The Four Seasons Hotel and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta were among the threatened places.

In Medan, police recently arrested an 18-year-old for spreading bomb threats through text messages, while in Bandung, a 24-year-old was arrested for threatening to blow up a radio station for ransom money.

University of Indonesia criminologist Erlangga Masdiana said Friday terror groups made hoax bomb threats to divert public attention from the real terror.

“Bomb threats are rife before and after a bombing, usually to divert people’s attention so the latter don't realize they're in a trap,” he said.

He added hoaxes were usually carried out by groups who did not lay claims to the real bombings.
He warned these hoaxes could eventually trigger copycats, who are usually “sick or immature individuals”.

“That’s why there are bomb threats made by children or teenagers and mentally disabled people,” he said.

University of Indonesia sociologist Ida Ruwaida Noor said groups and individuals were taking advantage of people’s fears and anxieties in the wake of last week’s hotel blasts by making up hoax threats to disrupt public order.

She identified three types of groups who call in bomb threats: groups of people who want to spread terror for ideological reasons; alienated people whose interests are never heeded; and immature teenagers or young adults with a penchant for vandalism.

“There are people who just like to see others get restless,” she said.

“There are teenagers or young adults who like to vandalize by destroying public property.”

Erlangga said that besides spreading terror among the public, the hoaxes also caused financial losses.
Hotel guests had to evacuate the hotel buildings, while workers at office towers that received bomb threats had to stop their work and leave the building.

Mobilizing the police's elite Densus 88 counterterrorism squad is also costly, Erlangga said.
“It’s a high cost to the economy,” he said.

He added the worst part was the loss of sensitivity.

“At first, people feel afraid, but then there’s an adjustment to all the terror and then people become more used to it and there’s no alertness anymore,” Erlangga said.

“When people become desensitized, they can’t sense when the real danger looms.”


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