06/04/2008, 00.00
INDONESIA
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More than 50 Islamic Defender Front extremists arrested

The police is questioning detainees over last 1 June clashes during a pro-religious freedom rally. FPI leader is among those arrested. In East Java young moderate Muslims burn radical group’s flags.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At dawn Indonesian police raided the Jakarta headquarters of the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), rounding up 59 members of the hard-line Muslim group, including its leader. The operation, which involved about a thousand agents, was the government response to FPI violence against a demonstration in favour of religious freedom which took place last Sunday in the Indonesian capital.

The detainees are being questioned by police about last Sunday’s clashes between members of the FPI and activists from the National Alliance for Religious Freedom (AKKBB) who were present at the rally at the National Monument. Some 30 people were injured during the incidents.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was criticised for his government’s soft approach to FPI activities, which for years included an active campaign of persecution against the Ahmadi community, whose members are considered “heretical” by mainstream Muslims.

After the fiery words of FPI leader Shihab, who until three days ago had called for “resistance to the last drop of blood”, it is surprising how he voluntarily turned himself into police custody.

Still what happened at the National Monument continues to fuel anger in the population and among moderate Muslim groups.

Members of the youth wing of the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), an organisation headed by former President Abdurrahman Wahid, stormed FPI offices in East Java, demanding the radical group stop its activities.

In various cities in East Java, Wahid’s stronghold, FPI flags and symbols have been set on fire.

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