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16 Indonesians die after drinking bootleg alcohol

JAKARTA--Sixteen Indonesians have died and nine are fighting for their lives after drinking bootleg alcohol to celebrate New Year's Eve on the main island of Java, police said Monday.

Police have arrested a couple who are suspected of producing and distributing the alcohol to roadside stalls in the town of Mojokerto in eastern Java, where the victims bought it.

It is thought the locally produced alcohol, believed to be made from palm tree sap or rice, contained poisonous methanol, Awi Setiyono, police spokesman for East Java province, told AFP.

Those that drank the alcohol to celebrate New Year began falling ill in the following days and the first death was recorded on Friday, said Setiyono.

A total of 16 people have now died — including two on Monday — and nine people are in critical condition, he said.

The small proportion of those who consume alcohol in Muslim-majority Indonesia sometimes opt for homemade drinks, because legally produced alcohol is relatively expensive as it is heavily taxed and much is imported.

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