May 20, 2004

Malaysia sets up force to guard foreign embassies

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 (Reuters) - Malaysia has formed a special police battalion to guard embassies, ambassadors' homes and dignitaries following recent attacks on embassy buildings, a minister said on Wednesday.

Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar said the force, known as the Diplomatic Security Service and formed of more than 1,000 armed personnel, would be deployed round-the-clock from next month. Only high-risk embassies, including the United States and Britain, now receive police protection.

"It will be operational in stages starting June 1," official news agency Bernama quoted Noh as telling reporters. "The men will wear uniform and provide round-the-clock protection. We will also assign them as bodyguards."

There have been two separate attacks on foreign embassies since late March. Arsonists torched Myanmar's embassy and attackers hurled a small explosive device at the Australian High Commission, though the latter attack caused no damage.

Last month, police tightened security around the Thai embassy following a threat to kill the ambassador and other diplomats.

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