NEWBURGH, New York -- A neighbor says a New York woman who drowned herself and her three children in the Hudson River had been in a loud fight with the kids' father in the hour before the fatal plunge.
Latoya James tells the New York Post and Daily News that distraught mom Lashanda Armstrong hid in her apartment Tuesday while her estranged boyfriend, Jean Pierre, pounded on the locked door for 30 minutes.
The fight came the same day a court barred Pierre from having any contact with his children, following a previous arrest for neglecting a 2-year-old son.
James says Pierre left after Armstrong's 10-year-old son came out to talk with him.
About 20 minutes later, Armstrong packed her four kids into a minivan and drove into the river.
Only the 10-year-old escaped alive.
DETROIT (Reuters) – A northern Ohio man shot to death his wife and three children before calling a police emergency operator early Saturday and killing himself, police said.
Alan Atwater, 31, of Oak Harbor called a 911-operator at 12:11 a.m. Saturday and told the communications deputy "there has been a terrible accident at my house, my wife and three children are dead," the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office said.
Asked what happened, Atwater told the dispatcher "gunshot wound" and then "I'm getting ready to kill myself right now," the sheriff's office said.
The dispatcher then asked Atwater "did you kill them?" and he said "yes." The dispatcher asked "what went on," and Atwater ended the call, the office said.
Police said they found five bodies upstairs at the family's two-story farmhouse about 30 miles east of Toledo including Atwater; his wife Dawn, 30; daughter Ashley, 4; and sons Isaac and Brady, ages 2 and 1 respectively.
Atwater had no criminal record other than non-drug or alcohol-related traffic violations and was employed in the maintenance department at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, the sheriff's office said. Detectives were continuing an investigation.


Arkansas, the death toll increased to seven today after Little Rock police spokesman Terry Hastings said a mother and her 8-year-old son were killed overnight by a tree that fell on their home. A sleeping infant in the next room was not harmed, Hastings said.
Five other weather-related deaths were reported in central and western parts of the state early Friday.
A boy, 6, in Bald Knob, Ark., was killed when a tree fell on his home. In Garland County, a 24-year-old man and his 18-month-old daughter were killed after a tree struck by lightning fell on their mobile home.
"I didn't think it would happen to a friend of mine," said Kasey Neal, who lived nearby, "but now we're standing here talking about the loss of a friend and their little girl that they'll never get back."
In eastern Arkansas, Lardelah Anderson, 64, of the town of Colt, was killed when strong winds during a thunderstorm flipped her double-wide trailer onto its roof. Her 65-year-old husband was taken to the hospital with injuries.
Tornado Kills Sisters
Two elderly sisters were killed when a tornado struck Tushka, Okla., late Thursday night. The twister chewed a path a mile wide and nine miles long through the southeast Oklahoma town.
With only minutes before the storm hit, Randy Walker and his family scrambled into a storm shelter.
"That's when this tree fell," he said. "It sounded like an explosion."
The 100-year-old oak trapped him and his family for an hour and a half until neighbors used a chainsaw to free them. The Walkers found their home in ruins.


Home Willard Hollon had shared with his son and granddaughters is gone now, as is the one where his daughter lived, both twisted from their foundations by a tornado and tossed into the woods nearby. The storms that devastated the Deep South destroyed his family, too: Willard, his son Steve and daughter Cheryl all were killed when the winds roared through.
The storms that smacked the Midwest and South with howling winds and pounding rain left 17 people dead in four states. The system plowed through North Carolina on Saturday, stranding hikers in western part of the state with flooding and possible tornado damage was reported in the central part of the state. In the District of Columbia, officials handed out sandbags to residents to protect against rising water.
In Alabama, Steve Hollon had recently retired from the Air Force and moved into his father's home with his wife and two daughters while they remodeled a home of their own up the road - he had come to this small community about 25 miles from Montgomery to be closer to his dad.
Henley Hollon lived across the street from his brother Willard and had come outside after the storm passed to make sure everyone was all right. The winds whirled, the lights went out and it all lasted less than a minute, he said. All he saw were a set of wooden steps and flowerbeds, the blooms still on the plants as though nothing happened. An American flag once displayed outside Cheryl's home had been draped over a tree branch about 100 feet away.
"When I shined the light out there I could see it was all gone," Henley Hollon said.
A weather service meteorologist estimated that the tornado's winds reached 140 to 150 mph.
Hymnals still rested on the pews at the nearby Boone's Chapel Baptist Church, even though the walls and roof had blown away. Tammie Silas joined other church members to clean up the debris and came upon two photos of the Hollon family
"This is all they've got left," Silas said as she clutched the pictures.
Willard Hollon's wife, Sarah, his granddaughters and Steve's wife all survived.
A neighbor, retired Alabama Power employee Don Headley, echoed what others in an area accustomed to nasty weather and the threat of tornadoes had said: When the storm bore down on them, they thought the worst had already ended. He had been on his patio and thought he and his wife were in the clear.
"The rain was just in sheets. There was a big bang. It sounded like something was tearing off my roof. Limbs were rolling off the roof," he said.
The noise ended in less than a minute, and Headley went back out on his patio. Where he had been standing moments earlier a two-inch wide limb was now driven through the patio roof, he said.
Autauga County Chief Deputy Sheriff Joe Sedinger said seven others were hurt in the area, including a firefighter injured during rescue operations. He said the storm hopscotched for several miles, leaving some areas devastated and others untouched.
In Alabama's Washington County, about 50 miles north of Mobile, a mother and her two children were among those killed, said county coroner Rickey Davidson. Jean Box, 38, and her two teenage sons, Shelton and Hunter, died when the storm demolished a double-wide mobile home in the Deer Park community, said Washington County Chief Deputy Terry Beasley.
The woman's husband survived and was in the hospital, he said. Winds had thrown things 100 yards from where the home had stood.
"It was not a pretty sight," Davidson said.
In Marengo County in west-central Alabama, four separate tornadoes hit over the span of about five to six hours, and a man was killed when his mobile home was tossed nearly a quarter of a mile, emergency management director Kevin McKinney said.
Another death was reported in Mississippi's Greene County, said Jeff Rent, a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. He did not have further details, and the Greene County Sheriff's Office did not immediately return a phone message Saturday.
A state of emergency had been declared for the whole state of Alabama, and even the first NASCAR race of a busy weekend at Talladega Superspeedway was postponed.
Tornadoes first started touching down Thursday in Oklahoma, where two people were killed before the system pushed into Arkansas and left another seven dead, including three children.
Back in Boone's Chapel, Henley Hollon talked about his family with Gov. Robert Bentley, who visited to comfort victims. The two looked at Hollon family photos that neighbors had pulled from debris scattered over a quarter-mile, as Hollon told Bentley he and his wife didn't have time to get into a hallway when they realized the tornado was hitting.
"If God wanted us, we was in the big room, where He could have got us," Hollon said. "I don't try to outguess God."
Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Birmingham; Chuck Bartels and Jeannie Nuss in Little Rock, Ark.; Nomaan Merchant in Bald Knob, Ark.; Kristi Eaton in Tushka, Okla.; Holbrook Mohr in Jackson, Miss.; and Jeff Martin and Jacob Jordan in Atlanta contributed to this report.


Exhibitin one: Indonesian National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam holds up the photo of suspected suicide bomber who blew himself at a mosque inside a police compound in Cirebon, West Java on Friday, during a press conference at the main police hospital in Jakarta, Saturday. The bombing was the first attack on a mosque since extremists started targeting the predominantly Muslim country a decade ago.(AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)A man named Muhammad Syarif is suspected to have been the suicide bomber at the Cirebon Police station, as suggested by a motorcycle license (SIM C) that was found at the scene of the murder of military officer Chief Corp. Sutejo.
Sutejo was stabbed at a road side shop in Cirebon on April 3 after an argument with someone who had asked him by phone to come to their shop.
The photograph on the driver’s license resembled the dead suicide bomber. The license bore the name Muhammad Syarif, with the address written as Astana Garib Utara, Pekalipan, Cirebon.
A suicide bomber detonated a low-explosive bomb strapped to his body during Friday prayers at the Az-Dzikra mosque on the Cirebon Police compound. reported that the house was empty because the inhabitants – the parents and sibling of Muhammad – had left the house on Friday night.
After looking at a photo of the suicide bomber, neighborhood unit chief (RT) Supandi said that the two men bore a similar resemblance.
According to Supandi, Muhammad was around 170 centimeters tall, fair-skinned and had slightly wavy hair. These descriptions were similar to that of the suicide bomber.
Muhammad Syarif’s mother was brought to Jakarta by police officers on Friday night.


Bomb exploded in a mosque inside the Cirebon Police Headquarters compound in West Java after Friday prayers at 12:50 p.m.

One man, believed to be the bomb carrier, died and a number of police officers were wounded in the explosion, including the Cirebon Police chief, Metro TV said.

The bomb squad have arrived at the scene and are currently securing the area.

All victims were taken to Gunung Jati Hospital.

The story is developing.


Condemnation of Friday’s suicide bombing in Cirebon, the first such attack inside a mosque in this country, came quickly from all corners of society — but answers have been scarce.

The blast, which took place during Friday prayers at the Cirebon Police’s compound in West Java, left 26 people injured, including policemen and intelligence officers.

Only the suicide bomber perished after he detonated what police sources described as a low-level explosive filled with nails and shrapnel.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono strongly condemned the terrorist bombing and ordered law- enforcement agencies to find out who was responsible, according to Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan decried the attack as a human rights violation that had disrupted peace in the province.

In a statement on Friday, the Maarif Institute, a think tank, said it was a “heinous act that hurt Muslims,” while the head of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) in West Java, K.H. Hafidz Utsman, called it an attempt to pit people against each other.

Radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, facing the death penalty for terrorism-related charges, said the assailant was a kafir, or infidel, according to his personal assistant, Hasyim Abdullah. “It’s haram [forbidden] to bomb a mosque. Only kafir do that,” Hasyim said, quoting Bashir.

The blast is the first major terrorist attack in the country since the July 2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta.

The attack — which shocked many due to its unusual locale — came in the wake of the arrests of suspected Muslim extremists, as well as a string of book-bomb scares last month.

“This has never happened before in Indonesia. It’s outrageous,”  said Mardigu Prasantyo, a terror analyst at Narapatih Center. “This is much more dangerous than previous attacks in the country [because] we never thought a mosque would be a target.”

In 1999, a bomb exploded in the basement of the country’s largest mosque, the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta. Three were injured, but it was not a suicide bombing.

Though officials said it was too early to speculate on who was behind Friday’s attack, an antiterror police source said it could be linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network or Negara Islam Indonesia, a group seeking to establish an Shariah state.

“From our initial analysis, we suspect that the group behind this could be related to the NII movement that has been radicalized by the JI,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Two suspected terrorists killed in a police raid following the 2009 bombings, Zaifuddin Zuhri and Ibrohim, hailed from Cirebon and were both known as NII activists, the source added.

However, military expert Andi Widjajanto said targeting a mosque ran counter to NII and JI ideology. “It appears that the target is the National Police, similar to the bicycle bomb,” he said, referring to last year’s bombing attempt in Kalimalang, Bekasi.

Noor Huda Ismail, a security analyst, did not rule out JI or NII involvement, saying they could have been targeting a dhirar mosque, which he said deviate from Islamic teachings and shelter hypocrites. He also said the Al Qaeda-style attack appeared to be carried out by an amateur.

Additional reporting from Fidelis Satriastanti, Yuli Krisna & AFP


Kabul. Afghans rioted for a second day Saturday to protest the burning of a Koran in Florida, killing nine people in Kandahar and injuring more than 80 in a wave of violence that underscored rising anti-foreign sentiment after nearly a decade of war.

Penajisan di sebuah gereja US kecil telah marah umat Islam seluruh dunia, dan di Afghanistan itu hubungan lebih tegang dengan Barat. The desecration at a small US church has outraged Muslims worldwide, and in Afghanistan it further strained ties with the West. Pada hari Jumat, 11 orang tewas, termasuk tujuh karyawan PBB asing, dalam sebuah protes di kota utara Mazar-i-Sharif. On Friday, 11 people were killed, including seven foreign UN employees, in a protest in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Protes datang pada saat yang penting sebagai koalisi pimpinan AS bersiap untuk serangan pemberontak musim semi dan musim panas penarikan sebagian pasukan, dan dengan lincah presiden Afghanistan semakin mempertanyakan motif internasional dan strategi militer NATO. The protests come at a critical juncture as the US-led coalition gears up for an insurgent spring offensive and a summer withdrawal of some troops, and with Afghanistan's mercurial president increasingly questioning international motives and NATO's military strategy.

Dua penyerang bunuh diri yang menyamar sebagai wanita meledakkan diri dan yang ketiga ditembak mati Sabtu ketika mereka menggunakan kekuatan untuk mencoba untuk memasuki sebuah pangkalan NATO di pinggiran Kabul, NATO dan polisi Afghanistan mengatakan. Two suicide attackers disguised as women blew themselves up and a third was gunned down Saturday when they used force to try to enter a NATO base on the outskirts of Kabul, NATO and Afghan police said. Awal pekan ini, enam tentara Amerika tewas selama operasi terhadap pemberontak di Afghanistan timur dekat Pakistan, di mana Taliban havens mempertahankan aman. Earlier in the week, six US soldiers died during an operation against insurgents in eastern Afghanistan near Pakistan, where the Taliban retain safe havens.

Presiden Hamid Karzai menyatakan penyesalannya selama 20 kematian protes, tapi ia juga lebih memicu sentimen anti-asing mungkin dengan kembali menuntut bahwa Amerika Serikat dan PBB membawa ke pengadilan pastor dari Dove Outreach Center di Gainesville, Florida, di mana Alquran dibakar 20 Maret. President Hamid Karzai expressed regret for the 20 protest deaths, but he also further stoked possible anti-foreign sentiment by again demanding that the United States and United Nations bring to justice the pastor of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, where the Koran was burned March 20. Banyak Afghan tidak tahu tentang pembakaran sampai Karzai mengutuk itu empat hari setelah itu terjadi. Many Afghans did not know about the burning until Karzai condemned it four days after it happened.

Pendeta, Pendeta Terry Jones, telah mengancam untuk menghancurkan sebuah salinan kitab suci Islam tahun lalu tetapi awalnya mundur. The pastor, the Rev. Terry Jones, had threatened to destroy a copy of Islam's holy book last year but initially backed down. Pada Jumat ia mengatakan bahwa Islam dan pengikutnya bertanggung jawab atas pembunuhan. On Friday he said Islam and its followers were responsible for the killings.

Presiden AS Barack Obama diperpanjang belasungkawa kepada keluarga korban yang terbunuh oleh demonstran dan mengatakan penodaan al-Qur'an "adalah tindakan intoleransi yang ekstrim dan kefanatikan." US President Barack Obama extended his condolences to the families of those killed by the protesters and said desecration of the Koran "is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry." Tapi dia mengatakan bahwa tidak membenarkan menyerang dan membunuh orang yang tidak bersalah, menyebutnya "keterlaluan dan penghinaan terhadap kesopanan dan martabat manusia." But he said that does not justify attacking and killing innocent people, calling it "outrageous and an affront to human decency and dignity."

Di selatan kota Kandahar, tempat kelahiran Taliban, ratusan warga Afghanistan memegang salinan Alquran di atas kepala mereka berbaris dalam protes pembakaran. In the southern city of Kandahar, the cradle of the Taliban, hundreds of Afghans holding copies of the Koran over their heads marched in protest of the burning. Pasukan keamanan menembak di udara untuk membubarkan kerumunan, tapi tidak jelas bagaimana demonstran telah disembelih, kata Zalmai Ayubi, juru bicara gubernur provinsi. Security forces shot in the air to disperse the crowd, but it was unclear how the protesters were slain, said Zalmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Kantor Gubernur Kandahar mengatakan sembilan pengunjuk rasa tewas dan 81 lainnya luka-luka dalam demonstrasi yang berubah menjadi kerusuhan. The Kandahar governor's office said nine protesters were killed and 81 others were injured in the demonstration that turned into a riot. Tujuh belas orang, termasuk tujuh orang bersenjata, telah ditangkap, kata pernyataan itu. Seventeen people, including seven armed men, have been arrested, the statement said.

Protes dimulai Jumat di Kabul, Herat di Afghanistan barat dan Mazar-i-Sharif, di mana ribuan membanjiri jalanan. The protests began Friday in Kabul, Herat in western Afghanistan and Mazar-i-Sharif, where thousands flooded the streets.

Di Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan demonstran menyerbu sebuah kompleks PBB, menembak dan membunuh empat penjaga Nepal, seorang Norwegia, seorang Rumania dan Swedia. In Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghan demonstrators stormed a UN compound, shooting and killing four Nepalese guards, a Norwegian, a Romanian and a Swede. berwenang Afghanistan tersangka pemberontak menyatu ke dalam massa, mereka mengumumkan penangkapan lebih dari 20 orang, termasuk seorang militan mereka mencurigai adalah pemimpin serangan itu. Afghan authorities suspect insurgents melded into the mob; they announced the arrest of more than 20 people, including a militant they suspect was the ringleader of the assault.

Utusan PBB di Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura mengatakan, organisasi ini sementara redeploying 11 anggota staf dari Mazar-i-Sharif ke Kabul. The top UN envoy in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, said the organization was temporarily redeploying 11 staff members from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul.

"Ini bukan evakuasi, ini adalah pemindahan sementara karena kantor tidak berfungsi. Kami akan siap untuk kembali segera setelah kami dapat membangun suatu kantor yang cukup aman," katanya kepada wartawan. "This is not an evacuation, it is a temporary redeployment because the office is not functioning. We will be ready to go back as soon as we can establish an office that is secure enough," he told reporters.

Karzai dalam beberapa bulan terakhir semakin mengecam masyarakat internasional dan pasukan asing yang dipimpin AS - yang pertama untuk menjadi tidak efektif dan tidak bertanggung jawab, yang kedua untuk menyebabkan korban sipil yang tidak perlu dalam kampanye melawan pemberontak. Karzai has in recent months increasingly criticized both the international community and US-led foreign forces — the first for being ineffectual and unaccountable, the second for causing unnecessary civilian casualties in its campaign against insurgents.

Beberapa diplomat Barat mengatakan Karzai pribadi memicu beberapa ketegangan dalam beberapa hari terakhir dengan membuat pidato tentang isu-isu yang belum mendapat banyak perhatian di negara itu, termasuk pembakaran Quran. Some Western diplomats privately say Karzai stoked some of the tension in recent days by making speeches about issues that had not gained much attention in the country, including the Koran burning.

De Mistura, bagaimanapun, mengatakan ia menarik ada hubungan antara kerusuhan dan kutukan sebelumnya Karzai pembakaran-Quran. De Mistura, however, said he drew no connection between the riots and Karzai's earlier condemnation of the Quran-burning. Dia mengatakan dibutuhkan "dua sampai tiga minggu untuk informasi untuk meresap Ini tidak seperti di Barat. Kemudian melewati mesjid dan kemudian melalui shalat Jumat.." He said it takes "two to three weeks for information to percolate. It's not like in the West. Then it goes through the mosque and then through the Friday prayers."

"Saya tidak berpikir kita harus menyalahkan setiap Afghanistan Kita harus menyalahkan orang yang memproduksi berita -. Orang yang membakar Quran," katanya. "I don't think we should be blaming any Afghan. We should be blaming the person who produced the news — the one who burned the Koran," he said.

berpolitik itu bisa menjadi bagian dari upaya untuk menjangkau para Taliban sebagai Karzai mencoba membangun jembatan dengan pemberontak sebagai bagian dari proses perdamaian dan rekonsiliasi. The politicking could be part of an effort to reach out to the Taliban as Karzai tries to build bridges with the insurgents as part of a peace and reconciliation process. Dia dan para penasihatnya tidak lagi merujuk pada Taliban sebagai pemberontak. He and his advisers no longer refer to the Taliban as insurgents. Mereka sering disebut sebagai kelompok oposisi bersenjata. They are often referred to as armed opposition groups.

Associated Press Associated Press


Two people were killed and dozens injured on Sunday as new demonstrations erupted in Afghanistan over the burning of a Koran in the United States, officials said.

One person was killed and 18 injured in what officials described as an accidental explosion that ripped through crowds of protesters in the southern city of Kandahar.

Hundreds of people had taken to the streets to protest against the burning of a Koran in the United States presided over by pastor Terry Jones last month.

Violent protests that began in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday have claimed the lives of at least 22 people including seven foreign UN staff.

“The protesters set ablaze a traffic police booth. Inside there was a gas bottle which exploded,” interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP, calling it “accidental.”

On Saturday 10 people were killed and more than 80 injured in clashes with security forces during day-long protests in the southern city.

The fresh wave of protests began in Kandahar city and two adjoining districts on the third day of violent demonstrations sparked by the Koran burning.

The United Nations vowed that the attack Friday that left seven of its staff dead would not derail its work in Afghanistan during a “crucial period” for the war-torn nation.

US President Barack Obama condemned the UN attack and also described the Koran burning as an act of “extreme intolerance and bigotry”.

Casualties were reported on Sunday at demonstrations in Kandahar city and the neighboring districts of Panjwayi and Dand.

At least one person was killed, a government official said on condition of anonymity, though it was not clear where the death occurred.

Kandahar provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi told AFP the situation was “under control.”

Kandahar is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban, who have fought an insurgency against Karzai’s government and its Western allies since they were ousted by the US-led invasion.

Elsewhere, about 500 university students protested in the eastern city of Jalalabad and blocked a key road for several hours, while hundreds of men poured onto the streets in Charikar, capital of Parwan province, north of Kabul, local television reported.

The wave of protests against the Koran burning erupted Friday in the usually quiet northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif where seven staff at the UN mission were killed by an angry mob.

The assault on the UN compound raises fresh concerns over plans by President Hamid Karzai and the international coalition to hand control of security in Mazar-i-Sharif, along with six other areas, to Afghan forces from July 1.

The attack on the UN was the worst in Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled in 2001 but special representative Staffan de Mistura vowed the organization’s work would not be affected.

“This should not deter the UN presence, activities, in this country in this delicate and particularly crucial period,” he said.

The remaining foreign staff from the compound would be temporarily moved to Kabul, he said, but would return as soon as a secure office was established in Mazar-i-Sharif.

“This is not an evacuation. We will watch and monitor the situation everywhere in the country... and I will then decide on relocations inside the country — not outside the country — depending on the circumstances,” he said.

De Mistura blamed insurgents from outside Mazar-i-Sharif for the deadly attack claimed by the Taliban, saying armed rebels had infiltrated street protests.

He criticized the Afghan authorities, saying police should have thrown up a protective cordon around the mission building when the protest broke out.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets after Friday prayers. They threw stones at the UN compound before storming it, and overwhelmed the Nepalese guards, killing four.

De Mistura said three Europeans — a Swede, a Romanian and a Norwegian — were shot after fleeing to a secure room, which the attackers managed to enter. One had his throat cut after being shot, he added.

The head of the UN office, a Russian, survived the attack by pretending to be Muslim and speaking the local language Dari.

De Mistura said seven or eight people had been arrested over the attack, and some of them appeared to be rebels from elsewhere.

Friday’s attack was the worst suffered by the world body since a bomb blast at the UN compound in Algiers in 2007 in which 17 staff died.

Agence France-Presse


Drug trafficking has surged in Indonesia, say authorities, who are cracking down on more smugglers, dealers and producers than ever before.

The scourge has seeped into all levels of society, including students and professionals, while foreign tourists are attempting to smuggle in crystal methamphetamine tablets, or crystal meth, known as shabu. Prison corrections officers have been caught running a brisk crystal meth trade, with the drug being produced in makeshift factories in housing estates in Jakarta and Batam.

The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) estimates that at least four million people, or 1.7 percent of Indonesians, are illegal drug abusers.

Data from the agency showed that its number of drug busts doubled from 14,105 four years ago to 28,801 last year, and 57 percent of last year's cases involved the manufacturing, trafficking and use of shabu and marijuana.

The rest of the cases involved party drugs like Ecstasy and other hard-core drugs like heroin and cocaine.

BNN's director of its natural narcotics office Benny Mamoto said: "We've seen more international syndicates trying to operate here in a big way."

News reports suggest that an increasing number of drug mules are smuggling in narcotics from African and Middle Eastern countries, as well as from Australia and Europe.

Drug syndicates have targeted the archipelago because of its porous borders and 17,000 islands - which make entering and leaving simpler than for other countries. It is also easy to secure raw materials through illegal imports, with some producers even getting their hands on locally produced pharmaceuticals and breaking them down into their constituent parts.

Drug prices in Indonesia are said to be among the highest in Asia. One gram of shabu is said to retail for between 1.5 million rupiah and two million rupiah (between S$218 and S$290), according to news reports.

Said criminologist Adrianus Meliala: "Indonesia has been stepping up the fight against narcotics in the supply-reduction front, while society did not balance such a fight with efforts to reduce. This, in turn, has pushed prices higher."

State news agency Antara estimated that the illicit drugs hauled in by the authorities were valued at 893 billion rupiah last year.

Recent drug busts that have shocked the nation have involved well-known individuals, celebrities and law enforcers.

Two weeks ago, former president Suharto's 20-year-old great-granddaughter Putri Aryanti Haryowibowo was caught smoking shabu in a Jakarta hotel room. She was with a mid-level police officer and another man, who had allegedly provided the drug. She is now in police detention, pending further investigation.

Early last month, narcotics officers from Jakarta discovered that the head of the high-security prison on Nusakambangan Island off central Java, Marwan Adli, and two of his officers had allowed the  shabu trade to thrive in return for a share of the profits. Police are investigating how the trade was carried out and how long it lasted. The trio are now in prison.

Indonesia mandates a death sentence for convicted drug traffickers. However, the penalties for production and usage are still relatively lenient.

BNN said that besides stepping up its raids, it is also launching a campaign to encourage people to help members of their family whom they suspect are drug abusers.

Said  Mamoto: "We can come over and pick up their loved ones, give them counseling, put them in rehabilitation, before they get arrested."

The campaign has been extended to schools, with teachers allowed to request for urine tests to be conducted on any student who is suspected of abusing drugs.

"We tell them, you will not be hated if you report your loved one or friend, because what you are doing is ensuring the person doesn't sink even deeper into addiction," Mamoto added.