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Indonesian rioters loot, burn shops to protest food prices

Thousands of rioters went on a rampage in four towns Friday, burning shops, houses and cars in protest of Indonesia's soaring food prices.

It was the worst day of violence yet in growing unrest over the nation's economic crisis, which has brought high inflation and mass unemployment."My children and I are still too afraid to leave our house. My neighbors are scared as well," one woman said after a day of rioting in the town of Pamanukan. Contacted by telephone, she spoke on condition of anonymity.

Angry crowds looted and threw rocks. As in other protests in recent weeks, the rioters targeted the property of Chinese traders, who are blamed for price hikes. A Chinese church in one town was raided and its furniture burned.

There were no immediate reports of arrests or serious injuries.

More than 3,000 people ran wild in the biggest riot in Losari, about 125 miles east of Jakarta. There was also trouble in the towns of Gebang, Pamanukan, and Ja-ti-wangi, all also on the western side of Indonesia's main island of Java.

A Losari resident, who identified himself only as Hendrik, said Chinese merchants abandoned their stores when the mob attacked.

"I saw rioters burn at least three stolen drums of kerosene on the street," he said. "At least seven shops near my house were damaged. Three had smoke rising from them."

Police said 30 Chinese-owned shops were damaged in the city, including one that was burned. The crowds piled looted goods in main streets and set fire to them before hundreds of police and troops broke up the melee.

Some residents reported hearing gunshots.