JAKARTA (Reuters) - Hundreds of residents armed with machetes clashed with security forces using water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets on Wednesday in Jakarta over a plan to renovate an area containing an Islamic scholar’s tomb.
The local hospital in Koja, north Jakarta, said it was treating 54 people following the fighting between about 2,000 public order officers and residents, the worst civil disturbances in several years in the Indonesian capital.
Several vehicles, including buses and trucks, were set on fire and destroyed during the day-long clash that disrupted work in Indonesia’s biggest port.
A Reuters photographer saw the security forces use water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets. Local television footage showed protesters being beaten by public order officers.
Some of the protesters were supporters of the Islamic Defenders Front, a hardline Muslim group known for attacking bars and nightclubs. Several appeared to be teenagers.
Metro TV said two people died in the unrest but did not cite a source.
The protesters thought the city government was trying to remove the tomb of Habib Hasan, an Islamic scholar who died in the mid-1700s, on land owned by state-owned port company Pelindo II. The Jakarta local government denied it had plans to dismantle the tomb, saying it wanted to renovate it.
“The location (of the clash) is right in front of the main gate, so there is a disruption” of port activities, said Kiki Hikmat, a staff member of Pelindo II. “The container traffic is slower because there are crowds on the street.”
The chair of the Indonesian National Shipowners’ Association, Johnson Sutjipto, said two ships, each with a capacity of 2000 containers, were temporarily stranded at the Koja terminal.
The two vessels, KMTC Poltang and MSC Asia, were scheduled to unload their cargo, reload for export and depart on Wednesday or on Thursday morning, he said.
Sutjipto said operations were halted in the morning but had since resumed although they were “very slow” as trucks carrying cargo had to make a detour through another terminal.
He said he did not know what MSC Asia was carrying but that KMTC Poltang, a South Korean ship, was unloading Hyundai Motor spare car parts and Samsung electronics goods such as television sets.
Tanjung Priok is famous in modern Indonesian history for the riots that took place in the area in 1984 when former President Suharto’s security forces fired on Muslims, killing scores.
Following the incident, Suharto launched a crackdown on militant Islam in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Additional reporting by Sunanda Creagh; Editing by Sara Webb and Ron Popeski