Terrorism likely behind avian flu outbreak: Indonesia intelligence

JAKARTA - Fretting that terrorists might one day unleash bioweapons in Indonesia, the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) says it will monitor the recent outbreak of a new strain of avian influenza in Indonesia.

BIN chief Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman said on Thursday that the agency was on alert and would continue to monitor the spread of the new strain, identified as H5N1 clade 2.3.2, which has re-portedly been behind the deaths of tens of thousands of ducks in the nation.

"My agency has been closely watching this phenomenon since the beginning," Marciano told reporters at the State Palace on Thursday. "We have to stay alert, as the global development of biological weapons is very fast."

"In the future, this kind of biological attack will be frequently used in wars," Marciano said, although he was quick to quell speculation that the new strain was a biological attack.

"We are closely monitoring developments. We can't jump to conclusions without strong evidence," Marciano added. "We are asking relevant agencies to look into the new strain of the virus more closely, and we will support their efforts.

Also speaking to reporters at the palace, Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said that several government agencies were investigating the new strain.

"Since we learned about the suspicion, we have formed a team to look into it. The team comprises the BIN and the Health Ministry, among others," he said.

Djoko said that there were possibilities that the new strain of the virus had been "engineered" for certain parties. "The suspicion is good for us, because we can stay vigilant about any possible threats."

Following the deaths of thousands of ducks over the past few months, regions across the country have taken measures to stop the spread of the new strain.

The new strain has killed more than 1,000 ducks in Bantul alone, while reportedly killing tens of thousands more in Yogyakarta, Central Java and in East Java.

In Tulungagung, East Java, for example, thousands of chickens have recently died from the new strain, which was thought to have been limited to ducks.

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