March 5, 2006

Thousands join anti-US protests in Indonesia

By Telly Nathalia and Jerry Norton

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Thousands of Indonesian Muslims
demonstrated against the United States on Sunday, calling it
the world's enemy in general and criticising it over issues
including a pending oil deal and cartoons depicting the Prophet

Some 5,000 protesters, including many children, gathered in
front of the U.S. embassy in Jakarta in the morning, with
banners reading "Warning, Bush=evil," "Get out from Muslim
countries" and "America enemy of the world."

The demonstration was peaceful, with about 1,000 police on
hand to make sure the protesters stayed across the street from
the embassy, which ahead of the protest had warned Americans in
Indonesia to stay away from the vicinity.

Two weeks ago a Sunday demonstration at the embassy got out
of control with protesters breaking windows and battering the
main gate.

Indonesian media said similar protests, all organised by
the Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, were held in at
least seven other cities, though they said only one involved
more than a thousand people.

Specific issues raised by the protesters included a call
for Indonesia, officially a secular state despite an 85 percent
Muslim majority, to adopt Islamic law; opposition to letting
U.S.-based Exxon Mobil operate a promising new Indonesian oil
field, and criticism of cartoons showing Mohammad.

The cartoons were originally published in Denmark and the
U.S. government has criticised their publication, but that has
not stopped militant Indonesian Muslims from linking Israel and
in turn its ally Washington with the caricatures.

Indonesia does not recognize Israel and is a staunch critic
of U.S. Middle East policies, although in many other areas,
including the war on terror, Washington and Jakarta cooperate
and have good relations.

The vast majority of Muslims in Indonesia, the world's
fourth most populous country, are relatively moderate, but a
militant minority has been increasingly vocal in recent years.

While many of the militants oppose violence, others have
battled minority religious groups, raided nightclubs and bars,
and been blamed for sporadic bombings, including October 2002
attacks that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, on the
resort island of Bali.