Nov. 21, 2002

Malaysia Perplexed by U.S. Warning,
Sees Paranoia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Reuters) - Malaysia played down on Thursday a State Department warning of Bali-style attack on its territory, saying security forces were on high alert after the deadly bombing and accusing Washington of paranoia.
Malaysian leaders, even before the latest U.S. warning, have accused Western governments of going overboard with travel advice issued since last month's Bali blast killed around 180 tourists and locals on the Indonesian resort island.
None was immediately available for comment Thursday.
The State Department made its warning in a statement repeating concerns about the "possible heightened risks to American citizens and American interests" in Malaysia, and particularly in the state of Sabah.
It also reiterated concern about the possibility of attacks by the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf militant Muslim group in Sabah and urged U.S. citizens visiting the islands or coastal regions of eastern Sabah to exercise "extreme caution."
"This seems to be paranoia," a senior Malaysian security source told Reuters, adding authorities had already stepped up patrols around all embassies, with particular attention paid to the U.S., British and Australian compounds.
"The increased surveillance also includes all other areas where foreigners concentrate -- including the city's night spots and places of worship -- not that many foreigners go to worship here," said the source, who declined to be identified.
He discounted the threat of any attack on schools attended by expatriate children saying that, however fanatical militants might be, this would go against their religion.
In terms of tourism, seen as a key source of earnings to counter the drop in Malaysia's electronics manufacturing, the greatest concentration of foreigners is in Kuala Lumpur itself.
"Our beaches are not really catering for backpackers, they are more for people relaxing in hotels, which are also used by many Malaysian families," said the source.
Malaysian tourism is dominated by Singapore daytrippers, who made up 5.7 million of 10 million arrivals logged by the government for the nine months of the year to September.
Brigadier-General Muhamad Yasin Yahya, head of security operations in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, said reports that Bali's bombers might move to Borneo were unfounded.
"There's been a lot of talk that some of those responsible intend to move up to Malaysia, and particularly Sabah. As far as things are now, we have no indications of that," he told Reuters.
"The security situation in Sabah is well under control now. We are very sensitive to any incident," he said.