Fri, 29 Sep 2000

Aceh continues to burn despite truce

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): Three buildings in Pidie and Biereuen regencies have been attacked by unidentified people in the last three days, a sign that the situation in the riot-torn province continues to deteriorate despite the recent agreement to extend the humanitarian pause there.

The deputy chief of Aceh's Cinta Meunasah operation, Supt. Yatim Suyatmo, speculated on Thursday that groups of armed civilians were responsible for the arson attacks.

Cinta Meunasah is a special military operation meant to contain the activities of separatist rebels.

Yatim said the district court building in Pidie, some 120 kilometers east of Banda Aceh, and a hotel and the social and political affairs office in Biereuen were damaged in the incidents.

"No fatalities were reported" in the attacks, he was quoted as saying by Antara news agency.

The fire in Pide gutted two holding cells and a documentation room in the court building, located 300 meters from the Pidie Police station.

The Purnama Raya hotel in Cot Gapu village, about 220 kilometers from Banda Aceh, was set ablaze on Wednesday. "The fire was extinguished before it destroyed the building," Yatim said.

The social and political affairs office was completely destroyed in an arson attack on Tuesday, Yatim said, adding that he believed separatist rebels were responsible for the incident.

"The motive for the arson attacks is unclear, but the method (in all three attacks) was similar. People poured gasoline inside the buildings, where homemade bombs had been placed. Then they detonated the bombs," he said.

Despite the agreement to extend the humanitarian pause in the province, there seems to be no end to the violence, which the military and the separatist Free Aceh Movement blame on each other.

The humanitarian pause extension was signed in Geneva last week, after the original three-month cease-fire ended in early September. (50/lup)