Sunday, December 01, 2002

Britain drops alert on Malaysia

By TAN KAH PENG

LONDON: Although British nationals have been warned to be alert about the dangers of terrorist attacks in South-East Asia, Malaysia and Singapore have been given the ‘all-clear’ by the Foreign Office.
Britons have been advised not to travel to any part of Indonesia while central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines have also been designated as “no go” areas.
The threat of terrorism had also increased, particularly on the island of Phuket, said the Foreign Office’s general travel advisory, which also warned about travel in the troubled spots of India and Sri Lanka.
Unless on essential business, Britons have also been advised not to travel to Pakistan, Afghanistan, East Timor and Papua New Guinea.
British newspapers are again highlighting the so-called “terrorist hotspots” amid controversy over why the Foreign Office did not warn Britons not to travel to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa where Israeli targets came under attack on Thursday.
The Tories have criticised the Government for not issuing such a warning when Australia had given a specific alert on Nov 12.
According to The Times, security sources confirmed that British intelligence had received exactly the same information as the Australians, but decided against issuing a new alert, believing that existing travel warnings were adequate.
“It would be grossly inappropriate if we were to give publicity to each piece of information,” Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was quoted as saying in a letter to the Tory shadow foreign secretary.