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Police shoot 41 highway robbers, arrest 326

Agence France Presse - January 16, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian police have shot 41 highway robbers and arrested 362 others along the northern Java island coast as part of a drive to safeguard travelling for millions of people during the Moslem Eid-el-Fitr celebrations.

National police information office head Brigadier General Togar Sianipar said 23 of the 41 shot died of their wounds, newspapers reported Saturday. "They had to be shot because they were resisting arrest," Sianipar was quoted as saying by the Media Indonesia daily.

The security operation came after national police chief General Rusmanhadi declared last month that officers would shoot offenders plundering food trucks and attacking commuters along the northern coast of Java.

The highway on the northern Java coast carries heavy traffic during the annual exodus to rural areas at Eid-el-Fitr, which marks the end of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan. The festival this year falls next week.

Crime has surged since the economic crisis hit the country in July 1997, driving millions into poverty. Warehouses and provisions shops have been looted, often following false rumors of handouts of free or cut-price food.