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Bomber were planning to attack US President George W Bush’s

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November 21st, 2006

Police in Bogor were probing unconfirmed reports that a suicide bomber was planning an attack during US President George W Bush’s visit to Indonesia, where thousands rallied on Monday against American foreign policy in West Asia and the Iraq war.Hundreds of anti-Bush students also tried to seal off Mc-Donalds, Pizza Hut and Dunkin’ Donut restaurants in two cities in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, at times sparking clashes with police.Bush’s helicopter flew through sheets of rain from the capital, Jakarta, to the lush hilltop suburb of Bogor, where he was met by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a close ally in Washington’s war on terror.A massive security cordon was thrown around the Bogor Palace, a graceful retreat on vast grounds, with thousands of police and rifle-toting soldiers patrolling nearby roads, mobile phone signals jammed, and water cannons deployed. Demonstrations by Islamic hard-liners, students, housewives and taxi drivers have been staged every day this month and nearly 10,000 met Bush on Monday, some holding banners calling him a “terrorist” and a “war criminal”. Others lined the roads to show anger over his support for Israel, the Iranian nuclear dispute, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, some chanting “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is Great”. Indonesia has about 190 million mostly moderate Muslims, the most in any country, and a long tradition of secularism. But there has also been a surge in the clout of Islamic fundamentalists, with some regional governments now imposing Sharia-based laws.

And, more worrying, Al Qaida-linked terrorists have carried out at least four suicide bombings targeting Western interests since 2002, with attacks on the resort island of Bali and in Jakarta together killing 240 people. Yudhoyono’s anti-terror cooperation and democratic advances since former dictator Suharto’s ouster in 1998 apparently outweighed the risks that Bush might face.

When Bush last visited in 2003, talks with were focused primarily on terrorism. Happy with the way Indonesia has dealt with Islamic militants — hundreds have been arrested and put on trial — Washington ended an arms embargo last year that imposed in 1999 over human rights concerns.

The White House said it was comfortable with security arrangements despite warnings by Indonesian police that the threat of a terrorist attack had “increased sharply” in recent days. Though it was not clear if a plot had been uncovered, Bogor’s police chief said authorities were taking seriously unconfirmed reports that a man wearing a suicide vest would infiltrate rallies on Monday. “We’re very sensitive about such reports… because, in fact, we have had suicide bombers in Indonesia wearing jackets or backpacks,” said Sukrawardi Dahlan. “We want to protect the people.”

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