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Indonesian Police Beat Back Protesters Outside US Embassy - 2001-10-09

Indonesian police beat back protesters and fired warning shots to break up an anti-American rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. It is the second straight day of protests by Indonesian Muslim groups since the American-led air strikes on suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

Angry demonstrators tried to approach the two-meter high razor-wire fence surrounding the American embassy here in Jakarta, prompting security forces to take action. Police fired water cannon, tear-gas and warning shots at the roughly 400 demonstrators gathered.

Many of the protesters are from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) which is one of many groups to demand that the Indonesian government suspend diplomatic ties with Washington. These groups view the American-led strikes against targets in Afghanistan as an attacks on Islam rather than strikes against terrorists. If the government fails to do so, FPI says it will conduct "sweeps" in search of Americans and force them out of the country. FPI leader Mohammed Sitik says they will ask to see people's passports. Then they will tell them to go back to America.

FPI has given the government until Wednesday to suspend ties with the Washington. On Monday, the U.S. embassy warned Americans in Indonesia stay home. The Indonesian government assures it will not permit any violence against Americans or other foreign nationals. Other mainstream Islamic organizations have also condemned such threats against Americans. At least three other separate protests took place across Indonesia Tuesday. Demonstrators set fire to American flags in the Indonesia's second city of Surabaya, in Bandung and in the south Sulawesi city of Makassar.

Roughly 90 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslim making it the world's most populous Muslim country. The government, however, is secular. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri pledged to back the U.S. war against terrorism during a visit in Washington last month. But officials now say they have to "synchronize" that commitment with the pressure from Islamic organizations at home.