Indonesian troops quash protest rally

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The Independent Online
Jakarta (AP) - Indonesian soldiers beating supporters of the main opposition party after about 5,000 of them tried to stage a demonstration outside the Home Affairs ministry in Jakarta.

Dozens of protesters fell to the ground with injuries. One person was run over by a jeep in which some of the protesters were trying to flee. The charge against the demonstrators, who wore their party's red shirts and headbands, was led by the chief of staff of the Jakarta military command, who grabbed a party flag from a young man and tore it apart. "You dogs, you are only troublemakers," he shouted. The army denied committing any brutality and said that the soldiers had been attacked with stones.

The violence occurred after the demonstrators from the Indonesia Democratic Party held a march to protest against a military- backed dissidents' congress, which was held to oust their party's leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Ms Megawati is the daughter of Indonesia's former leader, president Sukarno, and has emerged as a possible challenger to President Suharto, a former army general, in the 1998 elections. The military takes an active part in running Indonesia's government. Out of parliament's 500 seats, 100 are reserved for the military. Earlier yesterday, party rebels began a three-day congress in the western city of Medan with a speech by General Feisal Tanjung, commander of the armed forces.

President Suharto has ruled the country since 1966. Hemoved in after crushing a failed coup against Sukarno that was blamed on Communists. It led to the massacre of up to half a million people.