Kuala Lumpur: Is Food Paradise Jalan Alor A Terrorist Target?

  • Jalan Alor has been point as a potential terrorist target last week by the USA and Australia.
  • It will certainly speed the planned renovation of the area by local authorities.

Jalan Alor is well known from tourists. Located in Bukit Bintang, the Golden Triangle is a busy area due its hotels and malls, including Sungei Wang, probably the most popular of all malls in Kuala Lumpur- and a huge area dedicated to Arab-originated visitors. Jalan Alor, running parallel to Bukit Bintang Street, is a Chinese food paradise with its restaurants, hawkers and food stalls
For many Kuala Lumpur locals, Jalan Alor is not a destination to go. “Nothing has been done around the area by Kuala Lumpur City Hall as it belongs to opposition”, told a couple of years ago an affluent Malaysian lady, under anonymity. It is true that if Jalan Alor can be considered as a gastronomy paradise, it is also a seedy place with prostitutes working undercover and a range of dubious hotels and guest houses. In the late nineties and early years of 2000, Jalan Alor got the reputation to be also a place where tugs operated. It is only recently that the city government decided to upgrade the area in parallel to the construction of the LRT.
But now, a more worrying trend is emerging. Last week, the US Embassy posted the following warning on its website:

‘Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Avoid Jalan Alor on September 24. Based on credible threat information regarding a potential terrorist act, the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur advises U.S. citizens to avoid Kuala Lumpur’s Jalan Alor (Alor Street) and the immediate surrounding areas, on Thursday, September 24, 2015. For all other locations, the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur reminds U.S. citizens of the need for caution and awareness of personal security. In the past, terrorist organizations have on occasion planned their attacks to coincide with significant dates on the calendar”.

The same information was also displayed by the Australian High Commission. In its travel advisory, Australia asked its citizens to remain extremely cautious in Kuala Lumpur due to high criminal activity. “Petty crime is common. “Snatch and grab” type robberies, where thieves snatch handbags, shoulder bags, jewellery, mobile phones and other valuables from pedestrians, occur regularly. Busy pedestrian crossings near major shopping malls are particular hotspots for this activity. Injuries have been reported in the course of these incidents”, indicates the High Commission.

“Credit card fraud occurs extensively throughout Malaysia. Credit cards are frequently copied in places ranging from small shops to large department stores and hotels for later illegal use. Australians should also be aware of scams being perpetrated at busy shopping centres. Violent crimes perpetrated against foreign tourists and local residents by taxi drivers in downtown Kuala Lumpur also occur. Travellers, especially women travelling alone, are advised to book taxis by phone, use the shopping centre taxi desk or the new My Teksi App, rather than hailing taxis on the street”, further advises the Australian High Commission.

On the same day, Malaysian police denied that a terrorist threat exists for Jalan Alor. However, on Friday, police arrested three suspected terrorists- reported the Star newspaper. The three are originated from Malaysia, Indonesia and Syria. They were arrested by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division.

“We are investigating the involvement of the suspects in a supposed terror threat in Jalan Alor, said a policeman from the division. We are in the midst of verifying whether the trio had planned to launch any attack in Malaysia”. It is true that Jalan Alor probably represents what potential terrorists hate: full of foreign tourists (not only there for a gastronomy experience), full of Chinese locals, poorly lighted at night, the busy street could be an easy target.

In August 2013, KL Mayor Ahmad Phesal Talib already announced a beautification plan of the area to turn it into “a world-class street food paradise”. However, works on the upgrading will only start by the end of the year, due to issues with the piping and drainage system in the area. Some US$ 2.8million will be disbursed by DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) for the beautification process.

Once started, it would take a year to be completed. Garbage will be removed and placed underground among others, street light and cleanliness of the area improved. The renovation will be a welcome change and also help to improve safety in Jalan Alor.