Fri, 15 Sep 2000

Bomb blast, gunfight add to fears in Aceh

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): A gunfight in Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, and an explosion in Banda Aceh further shook the province on Wednesday evening.

No fatalities were reported in the incidents as a campaign of terror believed to be the work of armed rebels continued, a police officer said on Thursday.

The deputy chief of operations with the Banda Aceh Police, Supt. Y. Suyatmo, said a homemade bomb exploded at an office complex on Jl. Malahayati in Kampung Mulia village. The complex is home to the local offices of the Environmental Impact Management Agency and the National Land Agency.

The blast damaged the office complex's front gate and shattered three windows of a building in the complex, he said.

A security officer at the scene said the explosion could be heard within a radius of seven kilometers.

In North Aceh regency, a three-hour gunfight and an explosion occurred some 274 kilometers from the regency capital of Lhokseumawe on Wednesday evening.

The gunfight paralyzed daily activities in the area as local residents stayed in their homes.

In a related development, the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) released on Wednesday evening 16-year-old Sayed Ikram, the son of Aceh Besar Police chief Supt. Sayed Hoesainy. He had been missing for two weeks.

Rebel spokesman Tengku Amni bin Marzuki said Ikram was handed over to GAM by residents for his alleged role in drug trafficking.

Ikram said that during his 11-day detention at GAM headquarters, located some 60 kilometers east of Banda Aceh, he took part in the group's disciplinary program, which included religious teaching and counseling to avoid becoming involved in drug-related activities.

During his release, Ikram, said he was treated well and fed properly by his captors.

Ikram hugged Aceh Besar GAM commander Abu Tazurra before bidding farewell to the movement members.

His father, Sayed, expressed his gratitude to representatives from the GAM Joint Action for Humanitarianism, the GAM Aceh Ulema Council and the Henry Dunant Center for ensuring his son's smooth release.

The release of Ikram led to a palpable sense of relief among residents, shaken by the continuing violence in the province.

Separately, Aceh Police chief Brig. Gen. Doddy Sumatyawan hinted that the release might indicate an opportunity to resolve the conflict between GAM and the authorities through peaceful dialog, Antara news agency reported on Wednesday.

A similar statement was made by the head of the Indonesian Ulema Council, Imam Suja. He said the release could be interpreted as a sign GAM was opening up the opportunity for talks aimed at intensifying peaceful efforts to end the violence in the province. (lup/50)