JAKARTA, Indonesia – Thousands wound through the streets of Indonesia's capital and gathered at a grand mosque Sunday to protest President Bush's upcoming visit to the world's most populous Muslim nation, some chanting "War criminal" and "You are a terrorist!"
Bush's arrival Monday comes amid mounting anger over U.S. policy in the Middle East and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan — seen by many here as attacks on their faith.
Talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a close ally in Washington's war on terror, are expected to touch on those issues and on ways the United States can help with poverty alleviation, education, health and investment.
Security will be tight amid warnings that the threat of an attack by Al Qaeda-linked militants has "escalated sharply" in recent days, though it was not clear if a plot had been uncovered.
"The threat is higher," is all Maj. Gen. Adang Firman, Jakarta's police chief, would tell reporters.
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation and has more Muslims than any other in the world, with some 190 million mostly moderate believers.
During Bush's last state visit in 2003, talks focused largely on terrorism.
This time he is expected to solicit the government's advice about the Middle East crisis and the North Korean and Iranian nuclear disputes, something Jakarta is eager to offer after years on the diplomatic sidelines.
"Bush recognizes he has to change ... that in order to succeed he must cooperate with friends and allies abroad," said Jusuf Wanandi of the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"He sees now that unilateralism won't work."
Islamic hard-liners, students, housewives and taxi drivers have staged small but rowdy rallies every day this month and will be harder to convince.
Demonstrations climaxed Sunday, with nearly 13,000 turning out in the capital and vowing even bigger protests for Bush's 10-hour visit.
Nearly 10,000 Muslims dressed in white snarled traffic, some carrying banners that said "Punish Bush the war criminal" and "Bush: Wanted dead or alive for crimes against humanity."
One man dragged an effigy of the American president on the road behind him.
Others gathered at the al-Azhar mosque, Jakarta's second largest, to hear speeches by Islamic hard-liners denouncing Bush and U.S. foreign policy.
"Why is the U.S. backing Israel, which has bombed Palestinians and Lebanon," Tiffatul Sembiring, president of the Justice and Prosperity Party, asked the crowd of 3,000 who spilled from the mosque into the courtyard
"Bush is a terrorist," he said to cheers. "He's killed people in Afghanistan and Iraq."
Indonesia's leader, meanwhile, wants U.S. help in fighting poverty and a spiraling bird flu outbreak that has killed 56 people — a third of the world's total. He is also eager to see American investors return to his country, which remains desperately poor eight years after the ouster of former dictator Suharto.