Muslim mobs kill eight in Indonesia

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RESCUE WORKERS in the Indonesian capital yesterday pulled eight bodies from a gutted gambling parlour which was burnt by Muslim mobs, raising to 14 the death-toll from ethnic and religious violence.

Many Christian schools were closed after riots at the weekend in which mobs of Muslim youths set fire to churches and attacked members of the country's Christian minority. Soldiers patrolled riot-hit areas in northern parts of Jakarta, but there were no fresh reports of unrest.

Security forces detained 179 people during the riots, a police spokesmen said.

The eight newly discovered victims had burnt to death or died of smoke inhalation, an official of the Indonesian Red Cross said. Two were members of the ethnic Chinese minority, which is often targeted during times of social conflict, partly because of the dominant position the Chinese exercise over Indonesia's trade and commerce. Most of the Chinese in mainly Muslim Indonesia are Christian or Buddhist.

The Indonesian President, BJ Habibie, who is at the centre of student protests demanding wider changes to Indonesia's political system, blamed unidentified agitators and urged restraint. "We should be able to control ourselves," he said.

Abdurrahman Wahid, head of the country's largest Islamic group, Nadhlatul Ulama, and the opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri both condemned the weekend violence. "We have to beware of cruel actions made under a religious pretext," they said.

The riots broke out a little more than a week after clashes erupted between students and security personnel. As many as 17 people died in the earlier clashes.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's former president Suharto could be placed under house arrest if he attempts to interfere with a new corruption inquiry against him, a news report said.

Muhammad Ghalib, the Attorney-General, was quoted as saying it was possible the former leader could be banned from travelling abroad while the investigation proceeds.

At the weekend President Habibie announced that he would appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate Mr Suharto's wealth. (AP)