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Thousands join anti-US protests in Indonesia

Written by: Staff
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JAKARTA, Mar 5 (Reuters) Thousands of Indonesian Muslims demonstrated against the United States today, calling it the world's enemy in general and criticising it over issues including a pending oil deal and cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

Some 5,000 protesters, including many children, gathered in front of the US embassy in Jakarta in the morning, with banners reading ''Warning, Bush=evil'', ''Get out from Muslim countries'' and ''America enemy of the world''.

The demonstration was peaceful, with about 1,000 police on hand to make sure the protesters stayed across the street from the embassy, which ahead of the protest had warned Americans in Indonesia to stay away from the vicinity.

Two weeks ago a Sunday demonstration at the embassy got out of control with protesters breaking windows and battering the main gate.

Indonesian media said similar protests, all organised by the Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, were held in at least seven other cities, though they said only one involved more than a thousand people.

Specific issues raised by the protesters included a call for Indonesia, officially a secular state despite an 85 percent Muslim majority, to adopt Islamic law; opposition to letting US-based Exxon Mobil operate a promising new Indonesian oil field, and criticism of cartoons showing Prophet Mohammad.

The cartoons were originally published in Denmark and the US government has criticised their publication, but that has not stopped militant Indonesian Muslims from linking Israel and in turn its ally Washington with the caricatures.

Indonesia does not recognise Israel and is a staunch critic of US West Asia policies, although in many other areas, including the war on terror, Washington and Jakarta cooperate and have good relations.

The vast majority of Muslims in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, are relatively moderate, but a militant minority has been increasingly vocal in recent years.

While many of the militants oppose violence, others have battled minority religious groups, raided nightclubs and bars, and been blamed for sporadic bombings, including October 2002 attacks that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, on the resort island of Bali.

Reuters PG GC1035

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