Indonesia Police Open Fire In Riot, Student Dies
January 8, 1999


Tomi Soetjipto

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A student was killed Friday when police opened fire on a rampaging mob of about 2,000 who later went on a looting spree near the Indonesian capital, police and witnesses said.

A nurse from Ardiasa hospital in Karawang, an industrial town about 50 km (30 miles) northeast of Jakarta, said the youth had been hit in the chest.

``He was a 20-year-old technical student,'' she told Reuters.

Witnesses said police opened fire after the crowd had attacked a police station and shops amid rumors that policemen had beaten a motorcycle taxi driver who had tried to bribe one of them.

An official from another hospital told Reuters that three civilians suffered gunshot wounds.

Karawang police said they had taken control by Friday afternoon and there were reports that troops had been sent into the area.

But local radio station Sonora said thousands had again gone on the rampage, setting fire to vehicles and looting shops.

``A mob of thousands circled the town center and started looting a clothes retailer. They broke through a furniture shop, setting fire to furniture outside,'' it said.

There has been mounting violence in Indonesia which is facing its worst political and economic crisis in 30 years. Millions have been pushed into a life of abject poverty and there is an increasing sense of anarchy in much of the huge archipelago.

The latest attacks have undermined hopes that the current Muslim fasting month would see at least a temporary break in the violence which plagued this southeast Asia country.

Some analysts say much of the violence has been engineered by competing power groups struggling to get on top in the current political vacuum.

Thursday, Abdurrahman Wahid, leader of Indonesia's largest Muslim group, accused followers of disgraced former president Suharto of being behind the wave of ethnic and religious violence sweeping Indonesia. Suharto stepped down in May last year.

The worst violence in the new year has been in the rebellious province of Aceh where more than 20 people have died in clashes with troops. The military blames separatists for the attacks.