Indonesia’s crisis worsens as police kill six protesters

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — President Suharto’s security forces finally made brutal reality Tuesday out of his threats to crush growing unrest, firing into a crowd of student protesters in Jakarta. Six students died before the eyes of their horrified companions.
At least 16 other people were wounded, some seriously. It was by far the toughest police action yet in weeks of intensifying protests sparked by the worst economic crisis of Suharto’s 32-year rule.
Witnesses said officers fired continuously for several minutes — first rubber bullets, then live ammunition — after students beat up an undercover intelligence agent sent to spy on them. An intelligence agent was recently beaten to death by students at a similar college protest in the nearby city of Bogor.
The killings were likely to set off a backlash against the 76-year-old leader, whom much of the nation holds accountable for soaring prices and joblessness.
Last week, Suharto warned that police and military troops would use force to quell unruly student protests. On Tuesday, he made good on the threat.
Distraught students said the violence broke out after police, dressed in heavy riot gear, skirmished with protesters who had left their campus and blocked a busy road.
The nationwide protests have grown markedly in the last week, with ordinary Indonesians joining students and students extending their protests off-campus. The impetus for surge of anger was the government’s decision last week to do away with subsidies on gas, transport and electricity.