Tourists cancel eclipse trip to Indonesia over terrorist fears

Tourists cancel eclipse trip to Indonesia over terrorist fears
Reporters watch a video recording showing East Indonesian Mujahidin, led by Santoso, at police headquarters in Palu, Indonesia Central Sulawesi province on December 31, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

The Central Sulawesi administration has insisted that the province is safe for tourists after a Japanese group cancelled a trip to witness the total solar eclipse in Palu planned for March.

At least 70 Japan tourists had cancelled their plan to witness the phenomenon in Palu over concerns about recent terrorist activity, Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola said on Sunday.

Japan has a issued a travel warning for its citizens planning to visit the province.

"I don't have the authority to ask the Japanese government to revoke the travel warning. I can only assure them that Central Sulawesi is safe to be visited anytime," Longki told on Sunday.

In Poso, a regency 250 kilometres from Palu, the province's capital, a group of terrorists is hiding in the jungle, hunted by thousands of police officers and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel.

Palu is one of 11 Indonesia cities that will be able to view the partial solar eclipse

During the eclipse, Palu will be dark for around 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

The province had established a solar eclipse village in Ngatabaru Village in Sigi regency, 10 kilometres south of Palu, Longki said.

The Sigi administration also plans to hold a World Art Ritual Festival in collaboration with a Jakarta-based organisation.

"It is the Japanese tourists' loss for not coming to Central Sulawesi. It is safe here," the governor added.

Frenchman Antoine Merger, currently staying in the province, was sanguine over the terrorism threat, encouraging visitors to ignore the turmoil and enjoy the eclipse.

"Terrorism is everywhere so there's no need to be afraid," he said adding that he had been in Palu for a month as the project leader of the solar eclipse village development.

His team had prepared several events in a 6,000-metre-square location, he said, with events including art displays, traditional and European culinary festivals, music, culture carnivals and a local handicraft market.

Police in Poso shot dead two alleged terrorists last week who killed a Mobile Brigade officer during a raid in Poso. Police believe the two armed men were members of the East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) terrorist group lead by Indonesia's most wanted terrorist, Santoso aka Abu Wardah.

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