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Indonesian Protest Calls on US to Abandon Afghan Strikes - 2001-09-28

Thousands of protesters rallied in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, in the largest anti-American demonstration since the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington. The protesters are calling for the United States to cancel any planned retaliatory strikes against suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan.

Carrying Palestinian flags and posters of Osama bin Laden, thousands of protesters gathered in central Jakarta to demand the United States call off any planned military operations against Afghanistan.

Some demonstrators carried signs proclaiming that the United States and Israel are quote, the "world's greatest terrorists." Others wore headbands that read, "save humanity."

It is the largest protest to take place in Jakarta since Washington began to put pressure on Afghanistan's Taleban rulers to hand over Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Some demonstrators said the U.S. government should not jump to conclusions about who carried out the attacks. "It is only a bunch of terrorists, not us, not Muslims in general," said one protester. "The allegation itself has not been proved. It has not been proved by America that Osama bin Laden is behind this. So America cannot just send their troops without real or obvious proof."

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country. Its government is secular and has pledged to support President Bush's plans to combat worldwide terrorism. But the country's many Islamic organizations span the entire spectrum of Islamic thought, from the very conservative, to the extreme.

Most Islamic groups have condemned the attacks on the United States, but have also called for Washington to refrain from militarily striking Muslim-ruled Afghanistan. A handful of radical groups have threatened to launch an anti-American war if the U.S. military acts.

The Bush Administration has repeatedly said Islam is not the target, only those who use violence in the name of Islam.

This is not the first time small demonstrations have been held against the United States. Rallies were also held last year to protest U.S. support for Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians.

This week the State Department issued a series of travel warnings about Indonesia and authorized all non-essential embassy personnel in Jakarta to leave the country.