Film protest turns violent in Indonesia

2012-09-17 13:11
A police officer scuffles with Muslim men during a protest against American-made film that ridicules Islam. (Tatan Syuflana, AP)

A police officer scuffles with Muslim men during a protest against American-made film that ridicules Islam. (Tatan Syuflana, AP)

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Jakarta - Protesters hurled petrol bombs and clashed with Indonesian police outside the US Embassy in Jakarta on Monday, as demonstrations in the world's most populous Muslim nation turned violent.

Hundreds of people in Indonesia protested on Friday and Saturday against a low-budget American film insulting to Muslims, but they had been largely peaceful.

That changed as demonstrators lobbed petrol bombs and shouted anti-American slogans. Riot police responded with bursts of water cannon and fired warning shots into the air to disperse about 700 protesters.

Police were also seen kicking or dragging away some protesters, as thick black smoke from petrol bombs wafted into the air. One policeman, bleeding in the face, was taken away in an ambulance.

"America, America go to hell!" demonstrators yelled, some carrying placards reading "death to America" or "behead those who insult Islam".

Many of them were supporters of hardline groups the Islamic Defenders Front, known for its unprovoked armed assaults on liberals, transsexuals and nightclubs, and the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid, which was branded a terrorist organisation by the United States earlier this year.

11 injured

The demonstrators were all dressed in identical white Muslim garb and some were armed with slingshots.

Several hundred police in riot gear and at least two armoured vehicles guarded the embassy, together with a pair of water cannon and a fire engine.

Central Jakarta police chief Angesta Romano Yoyol estimated the number of protesters at 700.

The capital's police chief Untung Rajab said 11 policemen and a protester were injured and taken to hospital, and that four protesters were arrested and were being questioned.

"We used tear gas, water cannon and warning shots, which are in accordance with standard procedures for violent protests of this kind," said Jakarta police spokesperson Rikwanto, who goes by one name.

He did not say if police were firing live ammunition or blanks, but police said all the injured had been either hit by rocks or sticks.

Restricted access to video

Earlier on Monday, about 50 students trampled on the American flag and threw eggs at a US diplomatic mission in the city of Medan, capital of North Sumatra province, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

The Innocence of Muslims film, thought to have been produced by a small group of Christian extremists in the United States, has sparked violent anti-American protests across the Islamic world.

The movie mocks the Prophet Muhammad and portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent.

Indonesia's Communications and Information Ministry spokesperson Gatot Dewa Broto said on Sunday that YouTube's parent company Google had begun restricting access to videos of the film.

But the videos could still be viewed on Monday.

"We understand that it takes time for Google to block everything as people continue to upload those sensitive videos. We appreciate Google's co-operation," Broto said.

Read more on:    indonesia  |  religion  |  prophet protests
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