Sat, 04 Aug 2001

14 killed as violence continues in Aceh

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): Despite peace efforts by the government and Free Aceh Movement (GAM), at least 14 people were killed in Aceh in the latest outbreak of violence on Thursday and Friday, reports said.

Security forces were reportedly launching an intensive search ahead of Indonesia's Independence Day on Aug. 17, targeting sites believed to be bases for separatist rebels.

Indonesian Military (TNI) spokesman in Aceh Besar Maj. Eddi Sulistiadi said on Friday that four GAM members were killed during a 20-minute shootout between military/police troops and GAM members in the village of Sieung in Kotabaru district on Friday.

On Thursday night an ambush in the village of Siem, Darussalam district, also in Aceh Besar, resulted in the death of one GAM member, identified as Taufik, Maj. Sudarsono, a local police spokesman, said.

TNI spokesman in the province of Aceh Lt. Col. Firdaus said that six GAM rebels were shot dead in another raid on a separatist base in Pantan Karya village in the Central Aceh regency on Thursday afternoon.

GAM spokesman in North Aceh Sofyan Daud, however, denied that any of his men were killed in the village, saying that the six dead were all civilians.

Sofyan claimed the six victims were killed by the military and then dressed in combat fatigues with weapons placed in their hands.

"This is done to show their (the military's) prowess, to show that they had a successful operation," Sofyan claimed.

The rebel figure also threatened to put up a fight against the security forces' attacks on the separatist movement by launching attacks on police and military bases. Sofyan claimed that his side had managed to wound six policemen in a series of rebel attacks on police dormitories in the villages of Beurawe and Ajun on Thursday.

On Friday morning, three GAM rebels were also shot dead in a raid on their base in the Kuta Baru district of Aceh Besar regency, some 20 kilometers east of the Acehnese capital of Banda Aceh, TNI deputy spokesman Maj. Edi Sulistiadi claimed.

In Banda Aceh, a pathologist at Zainoel Abidin General Hospital said a male body aged about 18 with gunshot wounds was taken to the morgue late on Thursday night.

Comr. Sudarsono, the deputy police spokesman for the law and order operation currently underway in Aceh, told The Jakarta Post by phone on Friday that the 18-year-old, who was identified as Taufik, was wanted by the police for the fatal shooting of a policeman one month ago.

"Taufik and one of his friends were on a motorbike when they came face to face with patrolling policemen in Siem village in Darussalam district, Aceh Besar. They shot at the police and the officers fired back. Taufik was shot in the back while his friend fled the scene," officer Sudarsono said.

Violence has continued to rage in Aceh this year with at least 1,000 people having been killed in the resource-rich province.

A series of truces between GAM and the Indonesian government has failed to curtail the violence. In March of this year, Jakarta slapped a separatist tag on GAM, which has been fighting for an independent Islamic state since the mid-1970s.

The new government of President Megawati Soekarnoputri is expected to attempt to stop the bloodshed by moving forward with a proposal for the province involving the endorsement of special autonomy status under the new Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Law. Violence, however, has continued to spread in the area. (50/edt)