Wahid backers continue attacks


Reuters

Supporters of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid kept up their attacks on offices of a rival party on Thursday as the embattled leader said he would visit his political heartland to try to restore calm.

In the most serious incident, some 10,000 Wahid supporters rioted in Nganjuk town in East Java early on Thursday, screaming “burn! burn! as they torched the headquarters of the former ruling Golkar party, police said.

Mobs attacked a Golkar office in the town of Tulungagung, smashing windows and burning furniture and files, residents said. Police also fired warning shots at 10,000 Wahid supporters who tried to storm a Golkar office in the town of Lamongan.

On Madura island off East Java, thousands burnt part of the Golkar office at Sampang town, the Antara news agency said.

The other three towns lie scattered across East Java.

Wahid will travel to the heavily-populated province on Friday, and officials hope his visit can quell passions among his fanatical supporters enraged at attempts to oust the Muslim cleric over two financial scandals.

Presidential spokesman Wimar Witoelar said Wahid would visit the town of Pasuruan, about 60 km (38 miles) from Surabaya, the provincial capital and a vital port and business center.

It was unclear if he would visit Surabaya itself, scene of the biggest protests since Wahid came to power 15 months ago.

“The president will visit East Java on Friday to help calm the people there,” Witoelar told reporters.

“The president, with a small delegation, will go to Pasuruan in East Java. That place is where many movements exist. The president will express his concern there and calm the people.”

Surabaya, which lies around 675 km (420 miles) east of Jakarta, was relatively quiet on Thursday after massive protests the day before. Police said other towns were calm as night fell.

East Java police chief Sutanto said six people had been arrested for allegedly provoking mobs to torch the Golkar office in Surabaya on Wednesday. He gave no details.

Protesters have targeted Golkar over its sharp criticism of Wahid’s erratic leadership and the party’s links with the authoritarian rule of disgraced former President Suharto. Golkar was Suharto’s political vehicle for three decades.

Pressure has mounted on Wahid to calm his backers in East Java, the Muslim cleric’s political heartland and where violent protests have raged for nearly a week.