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Riots erupt after mob kills four

Reuters - January 10, 1999

Jakarta – Thousands of villagers went on a rampage in Indonesia's South Sumatra, torching vehicles and houses after four suspected thieves were beaten to death by residents of another village, witnesses said on Monday.

They said around 3,000 people in Labuhan Mariggai region in Sumatra's Lampung province some 135 km northwest of Jakarta stormed a neighbouring village on Saturday, setting fire to cars and looting buildings.

The unrest erupted after the killing of four men suspected of masterminding a string of motorcycle thefts in which several people have been murdered.

"The robberies have been going on for months but police have not been able to halt it. On Saturday angry locals in Polosari questioned four strangers in the village," one local told Reuters by telephone.

"They beat the alleged masterminds to death which sparked anger from residents in Gunungsugih where the men came from and that's when the brawl broke out." Police were not immediately available for comment.

Violence and crime have flared across Indonesia in recent months as the nation wrestles with its worst economic and political crisis in decades. Last week two people were killed in Karawang town, about 50 km (30 miles) northeast of Jakarta, when police opened fire on angry locals who went on a looting spree.

There were also reports of weekend unrest in the Jakarta satellite town of Tangerang and the West Java town of Sukabumi. Media Indonesia reported that hundreds of angry locals in Sukabumi, 90 km south of Jakarta, attacked a local government office after they could not find cheap basic commodites in a special market as promised by the government.

In Tangerang, on the western outskirts of Jakarta, hundreds of people attacked a village head's house after he refused to distribute cheap rice supplied by the government, the Jakarta Post reported.

Violence has also been simmering in the restive province of Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra. Four people were reported killed at the weekend after being beaten by members of the security forces during a dawn raid to try to capture a rebel leader. More than 20 people have been killed in the province in recent weeks.