CBSN

Riots Flare Again In Jakarta

In the worst violence since riots toppled President Suharto in May, at least nine people were killed Friday when Indonesian security forces battled rock-throwing protesters and street mobs attacked suspected police informers.

The center of Indonesia's capital was torn apart by violence as troops fired repeated rounds of rubber bullets into hundreds of students and other anti-government protesters hurling firebombs.

Student activists said more than 50 of their number had been injured in clashes with police, who also used tear gas and water cannon on the protesters. Local media reports said the death toll could climb and that possibly several hundred had been injured in clashes with police. Hospitals said their emergency rooms were full of bleeding students, many in critical condition with gunshot wounds.

It was the bloodiest day of protest in a week, reports CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen. The students are demonstrating against a special assembly meant to reform the government left behind by Suharto's authoritarian 32 years in power.

Clashes continued after dark as security personnel fired repeated volleys of warning shots into the air. Thousands of students and others ran for cover and threw rocks and bottles at riot police and troops.

Friday's violence erupted at more than five points near the legislature and followed similar street battles in Jakarta on Thursday night that killed another two people and injured more than 100. In both cases, agents were blocking protesters from converging on the Parliament.

Two armored personnel carriers rumbled by office blocks and three small tanks drove down a toll road taken over by marching students. Mobs burned tires as baton-wielding soldiers and troops dispersed an angry crowd on a major road about one mile west of the legislature.

Troops fired warning shots and chased thousands of protesters down Jakarta's main boulevard where offices and shops were closed.

Soldiers were seen firing what appeared to be blanks and plastic bullets into buildings at Atama Jaya Catholic University. Several students, some bleeding, were later taken out on stretchers.

Tosik Sutina, a morgue official at the nearby Jakarta Hospital, said two bodies, both male students, had been brought from the university. They had gunshot wounds to their chests.

Students at the hospital identified the dead by the single names Ridwan and Teddi.

In East Jakarta a rampaging mob beat a third man to death in a street as soldiers looked on. Witnesses reported dozens of other mobs attacks against individuals accused of being police informers.

Syaiful, a morgue attendant at Cipto Mungunkusomo Hospital, said it had received the bodies of one male student and civilian security guard. Both had gunshot chest wounds.

Other hospitals reported a steady and bloody stream of injured.

Trouble broke out soon after weekly Islamic prayers ended. Students marched from several campuses in the capital in defianc of military warnings.

The students were blocked from reaching Parliament where a special government assembly was putting the final touches to a new political blueprint for the troubled Southeast Asian nation.

On Thursday, a high school student and a police officer died in hospitals after 20,000 students were blocked by security personnel from reaching Parliament.

At that time troops and police also dispersed the crowds with baton charges, tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. More than 100 students were hospitalized, some with serious injuries.

Military commander Gen. Wiranto called for calm Friday and warned that an estimated 30,000 police and troops deployed across the capital would take "sterner and firmer action" if student protests got out of control again.

In an interview with private radio station Trijaya, Wiranto suggested people stay at home and that offices not open.

Wiranto defended the tough action taken by his men to put down the protests, which he said had been an "unlawful attempt to forcibly occupy the parliament by mobs."

Foreign embassies in Indonesia warned their citizens of the likelihood of more unrest.

The students oppose a special government assembly convened by Suharto's successor, President B.J. Habibie, to map out a new political system as Indonesia battles with it worst economic crisis in decades. Inflation, unemployment, and poverty rates are soaring.

Habibie, a former protege of Suharto, says the People's Consultative Assembly will pave the way for free elections next year.

Critics say the assembly delegates are Suharto holdovers intent on preserving their political privileges.

Pressed by the bloody protests raging outside, Indonesia's highest legislative body Friday endorsed a new government blueprint for the troubled nation. The 1,000-member People's Consultative Assembly also named Suharto in a decree demanding a massive government crackdown on corruption under his 32-year rule. The assembly ultimately approved 12 reform decrees aimed at giving Indonesia a semblance of democracy but voted to maintain reserved seats in the country's top legislative body for the powerful military, which the students have opposed.

The students demand greater democratic change, including an end of military involvement in politics. They also want Suharto put on trial for corruption and human rights abuses.

"Suharto's whole regime should be brought to trial for their crimes," said one student activist Martin Sirat.

In concession to student demands, factions in the assembly have agreed to name Suharto in a decree calling for an investigation into past corruption.

The assembly continued its deliberations on Friday, apparently oblivious to the chaos nearby.

A spokesman at St. Carolus Hospital said Lukman Firdaus, a male 18-year-old high school student, died before dawn Friday after being beaten around the head. He had initially been treated at a navy hospital.

Earler, the military said an officer, identified as Pvt. Prayitno, died after falling from a truck.

More than a thousand protesters remained holed up in the Atmajaya Catholic University campus past midnight while hundreds of others were scattered along the street. Authorities used loudspeakers to warn those on the street to leave, threatening harsher measures if they did not.