Tear gas used against anti-U.S. protesters

War on terrorism: Indonesia
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The Independent Online

Riot police used tear gas, warning shots and water cannons to disperse anti-U.S. Muslim protesters outside Parliament.

Witnesses said officers hit some demonstrators with batons after ordering about 300 members of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front to end a rally outside the legislature. Some protesters threw rocks in retaliation.

Privately owned Metro TV reported that one of its cameramen was beaten by police. Witnesses said officers also punched a news photographer.

They said police smashed cars and motorbikes belonging to some demonstrators, along with their public address equipment.

The protest was the latest in a series of almost daily demonstrations against the U.S.-led air strikes against Afghanistan.

Some of in the crowd carried sticks or held up posters of U.S. President George W. Bush that read: "Wanted by the Islamic people for murder."

Hundreds of police guarded the legislature's compound, which was protected by razor wire. During the weekend, police arrested 27 members of the same group on charges of possessing knives and swords.

Organizers of Monday's protest said they wanted President Megawati Sukarnoputri to condemn the bombing campaign.

Megawati, who leads the world's most populous Islamic nation, had been one of the first foreign leaders to sign up for the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism in the wake of the suicide hijack attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11.

So far, her government, which has tried hard to build strong ties with Washington, has only said it was "concerned" about the attacks and has called for restraint.

However, in a speech at Jakarta's main mosque on Sunday, Megawati signaled that her stance might be hardening.

Although she did not directly criticize the United States or its allies, she said, "No individual, group or government has the right to look for terrorists by attacking another country's territory," the state Antara news agency reported.

On Saturday, Megawati's deputy, Hamzah Haz, who heads a large Muslim political party, called on the U.S. to stop bombing. He also said Indonesia had yet to see evidence that prime suspect Osama bin Laden was responsible for the hijack attacks.

The United States, however, has said it has shown Indonesia and many other governments such evidence.