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Indonesians Rescue Looters Bodies

May 15, 1998

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Surrounded by wailing mourners, families and friends banded together Friday to pull the corpses of scores of looters _ many burned to blackened bones _ from one of the malls set ablaze in Indonesia’s smoking, pillaged capital.

Police and rescue officials, busy trying to restore order elsewhere in riot-torn Jakarta, were nowhere in sight.

The shopping malls that sprang up across the city before Indonesia’s economic boom went bust were a prime target of rioters in this week’s anarchic uprising. Most were too poor to ever have afforded the goods sold there, and were impoverished further by Indonesia’s worst economic crisis in 30 years.

Overnight, thousands of rioters set four shopping malls afire _ plundering food, baby clothes, compact discs and anything else they could grab. Entire families looted together.

Trapped inside the burning buildings, at least 230 people died. The mob frenzy quickly turned into equally uncontrolled grieving.

At the Yoga Plaza in east Jakarta, survivors _ shirts pulled over their mouths to protect against the stench _ dragged at least 100 corpses from the still smoldering ruins.

Some victims were found clinging to television sets and other items they had tried to steal.

Men lined up the remains in a parking lot, sweat pouring from their chests. Mourners sobbed, some collapsing in tears.

Nearby, others pawed through the ashes _ hoping to find salvageable loot.

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