Police fired into a crowd of demonstrators in Jakarta on Tuesday, killing six, as thousands of Indonesian students held anti-government protests throughout the country.
At least 16 other people were wounded, some seriously, doctors and university professors said.It was the first time that security forces have fired on students protesting President Suharto's 32 years in power. The months of protests intensified last week after the government announced a new round of austerity measures to help overcome Indonesia's worst economic crisis in three decades.
Indonesia has been the hardest hit by Asia's financial crisis, and Suharto, the region's longest-serving ruler, has proven unable to reverse the slide.
Five thousand students burst through the fence of Trisakti University in central Jakarta on Tuesday, blocking traffic on main streets and defying a government order to stay on campus.
Witnesses said police fired continuously for several minutes after students beat up an undercover intelligence agent.
Volleys of plastic-coated bullets were followed by rounds of live ammunition, several witnesses said. Many students were overcome by tear gas.
Police later clubbed protesters and journalists with truncheons. Several bystanders joined the students, who hurled rocks at police.
In Bandung, 75 miles east of Jakarta, police fired into the air and then clubbed protesters during a standoff Tuesday with 600 demonstrators.
"Stop the violence!" one student yelled in a rally at Bandung University of Technology as a soldier struck him repeatedly over the head.
At least five protesters were wounded. Other students chanted "Suharto should be toppled!" and sang the national anthem.
Police in Kupang, 1,150 miles east of the capital, fired tear gas canisters and plastic-coated bullets at a crowd of 300 students, injuring at least two. The students hurled stones at a local government building, yelling: "Democracy is dead!"
With the size and frequency of demonstrations gaining momentum, Amien Rais, leader of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organization, urged the military to exercise restraint.
"I ask the Indonesian armed forces not to use violence in handling protests because the students are expressing the same (sentiments held by) the military," Rais was quoted as saying by the official Antara news agency.
Reports of kidnappings and torture continued to surface, with a human rights activist who was kidnapped and then released after two months telling a Jakarta news conference he was tortured during his detention.
"I was put into a cell in an area which housed five other cells," said Desmond Mahesa, who is also a lawyer. He described one three-hour torture session. "During that time, I was kicked and beaten on my head, back, hands and leg. I was also subjected to electric shocks," Mahesa said.
Some human rights activists have accused the army of being behind alleged "disappearances" but the military has denied involvement and ordered investigation.
Suharto, 76, was in Cairo for a summit of 16 emerging nations. He told the summit Indonesia faced "painful sacrifices" to recover from an economic crisis he said had largely destroyed three decades of national prog-ress.
Suharto has said preparations for political reform could begin immediately, but implementation of most of them would have to wait until the end of his seventh five-year term in 2003.