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Archive for Monday, October 8, 2001

Armored vehicles, officers deployed in Indonesian capital as protests staged

October 8, 2001

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— Hundreds of Islamic militants protested outside the U.S. Embassy on Monday amid new threats against westerners living in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Dozens of armored vehicles and riot police were deployed in the capital after U.S. and other diplomats warned their citizens to stay at home in the wake of air strikes in Afghanistan. There were no reports of violence.

Police were also stationed outside the home of U.S. Ambassador Robert Gelbard, who has been the target of recent death threats.

One small hardline group, the Islamic Defenders Front, said it would round up and expel Americans and other foreigners if Indonesia did not break diplomatic ties with Washington.

"We will destroy American assets and attack the U.S. Embassy," its chairman Al Habib Muhammad Riziq Syihab said.

Influential Muslim clerics from the Indonesian Ulamas Council said the attacks were "an act of great tyranny and terror."

"There is potential for a world war between the Muslims and the West," said its secretary general Dien Syamsuddin who also called for a freeze on diplomatic ties with the United States.

Separately, several hundred people staged two protests and burned flags outside the U.S. Embassy, which was fortified with rows of razor wire. A water cannon truck and police with sticks and firearms stood guard.

"Jihad! Jihad! America is the great Satan," chanted many in the crowd that numbered more than 300. "America is the real terrorist."

About 50 armored vehicles and dozens of troops were stationed in the main square that separates the embassy and the presidential palace.

Some protesters marched on the city's main United Nations' office and then to the British Embassy.

Fearing a backlash that could scare away foreign investors, the government warned Indonesians not to attack westerners.

It is trying to balance Muslim concerns about the attacks against the country's need for good relations with the West as it struggles to overcome a deep economic crisis and political instability.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said Indonesia, which has been supporting the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, had "deep concern" about Sunday's air strikes. He called for restraint by Washington to ensure a minimal loss of life.

Security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia opposed terrorism but would not support further military action.

The U.S. Embassy denied media reports that it had told Americans, who number about 10,000 in Indonesia, to prepare for a general evacuation.

"We urge in the strongest possible terms that Americans resident in Indonesia remain at home and exercise maximum caution," it said.

The embassy was closed Monday because of a U.S. public holiday. Dozens of its non-emergency staff have already left Indonesia voluntarily.

Several U.S. companies said they had boosted security.

The British, Australian, French and New Zealand embassies also urged their citizens to keep a low profile. Some embassies took down their national flags. Several international schools, attended by expatriate children, were closed.

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