KUALA LUMPUR, April 21, 2008 (AFP) - Malaysia's leg of the Olympic torch relay passed off largely without incident Monday with a heavy police presence netting just five protesters and thousands of well-wishers braving torrential rain.
The torch completed its 16.5 kilometre (10 mile) journey at 6:00 pm (1000 GMT) under tight security with Malaysia's ninth king and northern Perak state ruler Sultan Azlan Shah carrying it to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.
The successful run will be a relief both to Malaysia and to Beijing Olympics organisers China after the flame was targeted by human rights protesters in Athens, London, Paris and San Francisco.
Japanese officials, who host the torch on Saturday, have been forced to flag it off in a parking lot due to fears of anti-Beijing protests and after a celebrated Buddhist temple pulled out over China's crackdown in Tibet.
Nepalese authorities have threatened to use "gunfire" against any activists targeting the relay on Mount Everest, and scores were arrested during the New Delhi leg.
Despite Malaysia's large ethnic Chinese population and enthusiastic welcome for the torch, scores of riot police, some armed with tear-gas rifles, formed a tight cordon around the site of the closing ceremony here.
"I am happy for the successful ending of the 13th Olympic torch run," M. Jegathesan, deputy president of Malaysia's Olympic Council, told hundreds of cheering supporters.
"The torch has still eight cities before it enters the Bird's Nest (stadium) of China's Beijing city."
A Japanese family of three waving a Tibetan flag were taken away by police when they were attacked by Chinese nationals, police said, who hit them with inflatable plastic batons and shouted: "Taiwan and Tibet belong to China!"
"A Japanese family and their son were waving a Tibetan flag when they were set upon by Beijing Olympic supporters in the Independence Square," senior police official W. Karthik told AFP.
A British woman and a monk were also being questioned by police, city police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman told AFP without elaborating.
Meanwhile about 30 pro-China demonstrators also turned up with big banners proclaiming, "Stop Media Distortion. Tibet was, is, and will always be a part of China."
China witnessed large-scale demonstrations over the weekend with many people angry over Western media coverage of Beijing's handling of unrest in Tibet.
Protests against Chinese rule rocked the Himalayan region last month, with exiled Tibetan leaders saying more than 150 people died in a government crackdown. China says Tibetan "rioters" killed 18 civilians and two policemen.
Malaysian authorities especially beefed up security in key tourist areas, but the atmosphere was mostly festive with cheerleaders, brass bands and roars of delight when the flame passed.
As the relay went through the capital's Chinese district, a lion dance troupe preceded the torch-bearers while ethnic Chinese children were seen waving flags and plastic batons.
"The rain has not dampened our spirits and we rejoice with China at this ceremony," civil servant Faridah Hamis, 42, told AFP.
China's communist rulers were banking on the Olympic Games to showcase the nation's much-touted "peaceful rise" to power, but the torch relay that began in Greece last month has become a high-profile target for activists.
After Kuala Lumpur, the torch relay travels to Indonesia where authorities, fearing protests, will parade the flame in a stadium guarded by 2,500 police.
Australia has beefed up security for Thursday's relay in Canberra, which is expected to attract pro-Tibet groups and supporters of the Beijing Games. Officials say nearly half the capital's police force will be on duty.
Meanwhile, in Shanghai, the visiting French Senate leader passed a letter from President Nicolas Sarkozy to a wheelchair-bound Chinese athlete who protected the torch from protesters in Paris.
Anti-French feeling is running high in China with weekend demonstrations targeting outlets of chain store Carrefour over claims it supports exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
The chain was hit by further protests in nine Chinese cities later Monday, with several thousand people picketing Carrefour outlets, police and business sources said.
The largest protest was in Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan province, where the French chain store was forced to stop trading for the day, they said.
Sarkozy has also courted controversy with his threat to pull out of the Olympics opening ceremony on August 8.