13 Killed In Indonesia Riots

Indonesia's beleaguered President B.J. Habibie on Monday called for calm as more bodies were found from violent ethnic and religious clashes in Jakarta's Chinatown over the weekend.

Police said they had discovered seven more bodies bringing to 13 the number killed in Sunday's clashes. The violence followed a week of student-led protests earlier in the month when 15 are known to have died.

Security forces detained 179 people during the weekend riots, police spokesman Togar Sianipar said.

Habibie joined calls by opposition leaders for people to exercise self-restraint and pledged to block any undemocratic attempts to force change

"I call on the people not to be easily provoked to take actions to serve the purpose of a certain group that wants to disintegrate the nation," Habibie said.

Opposition and religious leaders have warned that the violence was organized.

Several buildings were torched and looted in Jakarta on Sunday, most of them in the bustling Chinatown district, during clashes between Javanese Moslems and Roman Catholics from the eastern island of Ambon.

Residents say that Ambonese-led gangs, with the backing of elements within the military, have long run protection rackets in the district, which is dominated by ethnic Chinese.

Ethnic Chinese are Indonesia's most economically powerful minority and common targets of racial attacks.

Indonesia is suffering its worst economic crisis in 30 years. Millions of people now live in poverty as inflation and unemployment rates soar.

The latest bodies to be found, six of them charred corpses, were discovered in a ruined gambling den used by the Ambonese community.

Two of the dead were reportedly ethnic Chinese.

Muslim residents who disapprove of gambling burned the betting parlor, where Ambonese were working as guards, and said their attacks came after rumors that the Ambonese had attacked mosques.

Many analysts say the unrest is being instigated by one or more of the country's elite groups, jockeying for power in the vacuum left by the downfall of former President Suharto in May after 32 years of autocratic rule.

The Antara news agency reported on Monday that Suharto could be put under house arrest or banned from travelling abroad if he fails to cooporate with a new team assigned to investigate his wealth.

"If Suharto interrupts the investigation process, then the commission will propose a need to impose house arrest or a travel ban abroad," it quoted Attorney-General Muhammad Ghalib as saying.

The recent violence has highlighted the simmering ethnic and religious tensions in this archipelago of 200 million people, kept largely under control during Suharto's iron rule.

The vast group of islands stretches along the equator and is home to 300 ethnic groups and 500 languages and dialects.

About 90 percent of Indonesians are Moslem, and there are significant group of Buddhists, Hindus and Christians. It is the most populous Moslem country in the world.

Sunday's violence was the worst in Chinatown since May, when anti-government protests erupted into widespread rioting and looting in the city which killed at least 1,200 people.

Indonesian State Secretary Akbar Tandjung said the government would help to repair buildings damaged in the latest violence.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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