Indonesian Police Arrest 65 Anti-US Protesters
Sixty-five anti-US Muslim protesters have been arrested in the Indonesian capital for possessing weapons, police said Sunday.
The arrests were made after hundreds of protesters from Central Java arrived at a train station in Jakarta late Saturday, police spokesman Anton Bahrul Alam told AFP.
He said those being questioned were members of the Solo-based Front Hizbullah and the Islamic Youth.
"They were arrested for carrying sharp weapons and slingshots and we have not released any of them from detention," Alam said, adding that the seized weapons included short swords, knives and home-made steel arrow heads.
Alam said the protesters planned to stage rallies starting Monday opposing the US-led strikes in Afghanistan with several other militant anti-US groups such as the Jakarta-based Front for the Defenders of Islam.
On Saturday, Vice President Hamzah Haz urged Washington to stop the bombing of Afghanistan, saying a ceasefire would prevent more civilians from becoming victims.
"I call on the United States to stop attacks on Afghanistan because otherwise more civilians will fall victims," the vice president said, appearing to contradict the government's official stance.
President Megawati Sukarnoputri has issued a formal statement avoiding condemnation or support of the US action but urging that the attacks be "limited."
Megawati has been under pressure from parliament, as well as hardline and even some mainstream Muslim groups to cut relations with Washington over the air strikes.
She said after a meeting with parliament leaders on Friday that the government would continuously monitor developments before reviewing its position.
During a meeting with US President George W, Bush in Washington last month, Megawati strongly condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York and pledged support for the fight against terrorism.
But she stopped short of condoning military action.
Bush promised Indonesia hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and trade privileges at the same meeting.
Haz, who also chairs Indonesia's largest Muslim political party, the United Development Party, added that the US must present solid proof of prime suspect Osama bin Laden's involvement in the September 11 terror attacks.
"That's a big question which has yet to be answered," he said.
The vice president also urged anti-American protesters to "obey the law."
But hardline Islamic groups -- who have staged daily rallies outside the American and British missions for a week -- have threatened to attack both embassies and other facilities and to drive out foreigners following the pummelling of Afghanistan.
The Saturday arrests were made after police in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-populated country, threatened tough action against threats of "sweeps" or illegal forced expulsion of foreigners.
There have been no reports of major assaults on foreigners in the capital since anti-US sentiment began to rise last week in Indonesia.
Two German tourists though were punched and kicked by villagers in the resort island of Lombok after being mistaken for Americans.
About 10,000 Americans live in Indonesia and between 2,000 and 3,000 Britons -- Jakarta, (AFP)
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