Jakarta: Streets in the central business district lie blanketed in smoke following a day when rampaging protesters set cars and a bank on fire Thursday.
The violence had now reached the very heart of the Indonesian capital. In the north Jakarta central business district police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of people protesting against the deaths of the six students and IMF induced higher fuel prices. Office workers were trapped between security forces blocking both ends of a main street in Jakarta's central business district.
Branches of Bank Central Asia, co-owned by the Salim family, headed by Indonesia's wealthiest man, Mr Liem Sioe Liong, and some of the President Suharto's children.were targeted. Looters broke into branch offices of Bank of Central Asia (BCA), at Jalan Daan Mogot, and Bank International Indonesia (BII) according to indonesia's Antara news agency.
At one Bank Bali, the AFP news agency reported that tellers started throwing money at protesters so they would not burn down the building. Foreign banks closed their doors. Deutsche Bank said it was temporarily closing its Jakarta and Surabaya branches and Bangkok Bank also shut down its Jakarta operations.
An angry mob burned about 20 cars, destroyed street lights, road signs and toll-road offices. One target was a showroom containing cars made by a company owned by one of Suharto's sons, Bambang Trihatmojo. In a commercial area of north Jakarta dominated by ethnic chinese a Jakarta supermarket was looted. People emerged from it carrying cartons of food. Children stuffed their shirts, wound clothing around themselves and stacked hats on their heads.
Leader of Indonesia's armed forces General Wiranto has apologised for the shooting deaths of four students by security forces. But he is threatening strong action against the mobs and looters who he claims are responsible for several other civilian deaths.
The chairman of an influential Moslem organisation says President Suharto should defer power to the vice-president, to avoid further violence and restore stability.
In two other major cities, Bandung and Suryabaya, there were gatherings of 50,000 and 30,000 - crowds on a scale never before seen.
President Suharto remains overseas in Cairo where he has been attending the G-15 summit of leaders of developing nations. He is expected to return early tomorrow.
Yesterday afternoon, thousands of ordinary Indonesians had joined the protests in front of Trisakti University, spilling on to the streets and engaging in sporadic clashes with security forces at the scene of Tuesday's shootings, which left six people dead.
The student protests began in February, sparked by the worst economic
crisis in decades which has resulted in widespread unemployment and spiraling
inflation. The crisis required the International Monetary Fund to organize
$43 billion in loans for Indonesia, and IMF laid down stern economic reform