Sat, 01 Apr 2000

Aceh rebels attack Exxon-Mobil airfield

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): Separatist rebels in Aceh province shot and wounded two employees of the multinational company Exxon- Mobil Inc. in an attack on an airfield run by the company in Lhokseumawe on Friday, officials said.

Police said that a chartered plane operated by PT Pelita Air Service was attacked by two unidentified men shortly after it landed at the airfield in the North Aceh industrial city 7:45 a.m. local time.

Aceh Police chief Brig. Gen. Bachrumsyah Kasman identified the two employees as Prisman Simanjuntak, 35 and Jamaluddin, 40.

Both suffered minor injuries, with Prisman shot in his right hand and Jamaluddin in the left shoulder.

According to a senior officer at the company, formerly known as Mobil Oil Indonesia, both men were being treated at a clinic within the compound.

"The airfield will resume its operations as usual, but it is quite disturbing as we have only one plane left. We certainly cannot use the one with bullet holes in it," the officer said.

Bachrumsyah stated that the two gunmen sprayed bullets from a speeding motorcycle outside the runaway gate 200 meters from the plane. The attack left seven bullet holes in the plane.

Police speculated the armed men used AK-47 or M-16 semiautomatic rifles.

The company employees were wounded while still inside the plane. The other 15 people on board were not hurt, according to Bachrumsyah.

The gunmen have not been apprehended yet.

Quoting witnesses, Lilawangsa Military Commander Col. Syafnil Armen identified one of the attackers as a member of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel group, locally known as the Jaelani gang.

He said the gunmen were driving a Honda Astrea motorcycle bearing the license plate number BL 6310 HP.

The airfield, which has a 1,800-meter-long and 30-meter-wide runaway, is located within the company compound in Nibong village of Tanah Luas district in Lhoksukon, 20 kilometers east of Lhokseumawe. It normally has two flights every day.

Most of company's employees reside in Medan, the capital of neighboring North Sumatra province, for security reasons.

They fly daily from Medan-base Polonia airfield to Lhoksukon.

Exxon-Mobil Indonesia operates one of the country's largest gasfields in Arun.

GAM spokesman Ismail Syahputra said the attack was originally aimed at security forces guarding the site. He added that the two employees were hit by stray bullets.

He said GAM was not responsible for any attack on the company's facilities or any casualties resulting from the violence.

"We have repeatedly warned the company's management not to place any TNI personnel in their compound," Ismail said.

Earlier on Feb. 5 an armed gang attacked and burned the terminal at Malikussaleh airfield, which serves the Arun gasfields, about 45 kilometers west of Lhokseumawe.

Malikussaleh, a special airfield located at Pintoe Weu village, is jointly managed by state oil company Pertamina and PT Arun. Following the attack on Friday all flights were temporarily moved to Malikussaleh. (50/edt/sur)