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Riots Erupt in Two Indonesia Towns

August 13, 1998

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Soldiers fired warning shots after hundreds of people looted several shops and burned a discotheque and motorcycles on western Java island, newspapers reported Thursday.

The riots in two towns Wednesday came as the government sought to quell rumors that unrest will break out in Jakarta on Aug. 17, Indonesia’s independence day. Thousands of soldiers are being deployed in the capital.

Many people fear any demonstrations planned on that day will degenerate into deadly riots like those in May that helped oust President Suharto after 32 years in power.

Millions of Indonesians are enduring the worst economic hardship in three decades and riots over price increases have erupted in cities and many small towns this year.

In Labuan, 95 miles southwest of Jakarta, mobs looted three shops Wednesday after a customer argued with a storekeeper over the price of cigarettes, the Kompas newspaper reported.

The same day, a crowd in the nearby town of Serang burned a hotel discotheque suspected of harboring prostitutes and ransacked hotel rooms.

Rioters also burned three motorcycles and attacked a military car, Merdeka newspaper reported. Soldiers fired warning shots to scare off the mob, but there were no arrests or reports of injuries.

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