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Westlife Set To Rock Jakarta Under Tight Security

Irish boy band Westlife will rock Indonesia’s capital on Thursday under heavy security as police take no chances following the death of four fans in a stampede when another band toured Jakarta in March.

Organizers said 2,000 security personnel including police would guard the 15,000-seat concert stadium in central Jakarta, along with 200 paramedics backed up by a number of ambulances and fire engines for the late afternoon event.

Bands such as the chart-topping Westlife are hugely popular with Indonesian teenagers, but visits have become less common since the country sank into crisis in the late 1990s.

The British boy band A1 cut short a promotional tour in Asia after four young fans were crushed to death in a stampede at an autograph-signing in a Jakarta shopping mall last March.

Adrie Soebono, the chief organizer from concert promoter Java Musikindo, said Westlife would finish playing before nightfall to minimize the threat of frenzied fans getting out of control.

“Westlife wanted a night concert, but I said we wanted it all finished before dark,” Soebono told Reuters.

“We don’t want anything bad happening.”

Near the concert venue, police were busily setting up road blocks and manning entry points, although few fans had arrived.

Local media have said thousands of fans went hysterical when Westlife performed in Jakarta last year, with dozens needing first aid after fainting. Some 200 teenaged girls have already tried to catch a glimpse of their young Irish heroes, staking out the Hilton Hotel where the band is staying.

“We want Westlife. Let us in or let them out,” they screamed in the hotel grounds as Westlife prepared to hold a news conference earlier on Thursday. Security guards prevented them from entering the hotel building.

Virda, 15, said she was desperate to see the boys.

“I just want to see them in person. They are so cute and they are not as arrogant as the other (boy bands),” she said.

Westlife’s local distributor said the band’s latest album – Coast to Coast – had sold more than a million copies in Indonesia, making it the top selling record ever by an international pop group in the country. Among their hit singles is a remake of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.”

In an effort to keep the event under control, promoters have issued tips to teenage girls going to the concert. One is: “Do not try to chase the boys to their hotel or the airport.”

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