Indonesian police arrest 62 over Ramadan bar attack

Indonesian police said Monday they have arrested 62 people, most of them minors, involved in attacking a bar in south Jakarta for serving alcohol during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

A group of 150 youths -- some as young as 13 and carrying swords and golf clubs -- raided the De Most bar late Saturday, smashing bottles of alcoholic drinks and damaging the property, said Hermawan, chief detective for South Jakarta police.

"Of the 62 arrested most are minors, and some... were armed with Samurai swords, sickles and golf clubs," said Hermawan, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

"They shattered the windows and door and smashed bottles, saying they wanted all bars shut to ensure the month of Ramadan is not tainted," he added.

Twenty-three people face charges of damaging property while four are additionally charged with carrying sharp weapons.

The group called itself the Prophet's Defenders Council, Hermawan said.

"It is usual for me and my followers to raid sinful places during Ramadan," the group's alleged leader, 33-year-old Habib Bahar was quoted as saying by the Kompas.com news website after the arrests.

"They commit sins there. They get drunk so action must be taken," said Bahar, who was among the arrested.

A bar staff member said the attackers, some of them wearing white trousers and matching skull caps, arrived on motorcycles and shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) as they entered the bar and forced guests to leave.

"There was a live band playing (traditional) dangdut music and some of us were dancing. They said this is a sinful place, before smashing the glasses and beer bottles," the bar's operational manager Pariah, 37, told AFP.

"It was very frightening as they were armed with sticks, machetes, swords. Some of the female staff took off their high-heel shoes and ran helter-skelter. We thought they were going to kill us," she said.

In previous years Islamic groups have raided places serving alcohol, but Saturday's attack was the first this year since the fasting month of Ramadan officially began on July 21.

Authorities have ordered bars and nightclubs to close during the holy month, but the ban is not strictly enforced.

Ninety percent of Indonesia's population of 240 million identify themselves as Muslim but the vast majority practise a moderate form of Islam.

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