Two dozen Indonesians die after drinking bootleg alcohol

JAKARTA (AFP) - Two dozen Indonesians have died after drinking bootleg alcohol, police said Wednesday (April 4), marking the latest a string of deaths linked to homemade liquor sold in the Muslim-majority country.

A shop owner in Jakarta was arrested Tuesday for selling the illegal booze at his herbal drink stall, authorities said, with 16 deaths reported since Monday around the sprawling capital and the remaining eight fatalities were in Papua.

Several others are in critical condition in hospital.

"(The drinks seller) confessed that he mixed pure alcohol with Coca Cola and an energy drink. He thought it would be safe, but apparently it killed people," South Jakarta police chief Indra Ja'far told AFP.

Some of the deadly cocktails may have come from a single distributor who sold the booze to local merchants, police said.

"We are currently chasing the sellers, not just the small traders but also distributors," East Jakarta police chief Tony Surya Putra told broadcaster tvOne.

"We believe there is a big distributor behind this case."

Indonesia is home to the world's biggest Muslim population, but most practise a moderate form of Islam and alcohol is available in big cities.

However, high taxes make alcohol expensive so labourers and other poorly paid workers turn to potentially dangerous homebrews.

In rural areas, where few drink, getting hold of alcohol can be difficult and people sometimes turn to homemade booze.

In 2016 at least 36 people died in Central Java after drinking locally-bought homebrew.