1,500 officers despatched to protect churches over Christmas in Indonesia

A policeman holds a rifle as he stands guard in front of a burned church at Suka Makmur Village in Aceh, IndonesiaReuters

Indonesia is dispatching 1,500 police officers to protect churches from terror attacks over the Christmas and New Year period, according to Today Online.

Police in the capital of North Sumatra, Medan, have said that the extra security is essential in the wake of heightened threat of terrorist attacks in Indonesia linked to ISIS. The terrorist organisation is thought to have attracted several hundred Indonesians to date.

"The security operation has already started at every church," said Commissioner Hamam Wahyudi, from Medan Police.

"Church leaders and their congregations have to immediately report any suspicious items or people they see."

North Sumatra is a Muslim-majority population, however there is a significant Christian minority of around 30 per cent. It neighbours Aceh province, where around 1,000 churches have been closed since 2006 and Sharia Law is now implemented.

North Sumatra is home to the largest number of churches in the country, according to data from the Religious Affairs ministry from 2008, with almost 5,400 protestants and 1,700 Catholic churches serving almost 3 million Christians.

In 2000, 18 people were killed in Indonesia by a coordinated series of bombings targeting churches on Christmas Eve.