Tue, 19 Aug 2003

Bombs hit Aceh on Independence Day

The Jakarta Post, Lhokseumawe/Ambon/, Jayapura

A low-explosive blast in downtown Lhokseumawe late on Sunday evening capped the celebration of the country's 58th anniversary in war-torn Aceh province. Five other blasts of equal size that exploded on the same day were blamed on the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Aside from the blasts in Aceh, and the hoisting of separatist flags in Ambon, Maluku, where Muslim-Christian clashes have been rife for the last several years, Independence Day was celebrated relatively peacefully throughout the rest of the approximately 17,000 islands in the archipelago.

Most security personnel in cities across the country were on high alert in anticipation of any possible disturbances or terrorist attacks.

The high alert status is to continue indefinitely until further notice from the National Police chief.

In Aceh, a bomb exploded in the evening in front of insurance firm PT Asuransi Berdikari. The insurance firm is located across Hira field, where the Independence Day celebrations took place earlier in the day.

At least seven people were injured in the blast, including two children, who happened to be passing on the nearby sidewalk.

The military and the police, however, claimed only five were injured in the blast, because "the two children do not count".

Police in North Aceh regency said it had arrested Rajali, 19, who was suspected of being behind the blast.

Earlier in the day, five other low-explosive bombs exploded in four different areas: two in Peusong, one in North Aceh's new capital of Lhok Sukon, another in Matang Kuli district and the last in Cot Murung village, Nisam.

The police also defused three bombs planted in separate areas in the Geudong and Bayu districts. Bayu, 15 kilometers from Lhokseumawe, is known as the headquarters of GAM's bomb unit.

In Ambon, Maluku, security officers lowered two separatist flags that were raised by the South Maluku Republic (RMS) in the villages of Kudamati and Passo, Ambon.

Local military spokesman First Lt. Ghufron said the security officers had stumbled upon the two flags, but had not caught those persons responsible for raising them.

"This is the action of irresponsible persons. We will find them," said local military chief Maj. Gen. Agustadi on Sunday, while local police chief Brig. Gen. Bambang Sutrisno also vowed to arrest the perpetrators.

Elsewhere in Ambon, particularly at Merdeka Square where some 2000 students, civil servants and observers commemorated Independence Day, the celebrations were peaceful. Hundreds of people also watched live entertainment at the square.

In Papua, around 2,000 members grouped in a task force under the separatist group, the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP), proclaimed their loyalty to the unitary state of Indonesia. Fourteen representative members of the task force, headed by Socrates Sayori, took part in the ceremony in Nabire regency.

The task force had stopped its activities following the murder in November 2001 of PDP chairman Theys Hiyo Eluay.

Papuan Governor Jaap Salossa expressed his pleasure and thanked the task force members for returning to the unitary state of Indonesia. The national Red-and-White flags decorated the main thoroughfare in Jayapura, and the event proceeded without incident.

Salossa presided over the ceremony, while deputy speaker Ben Vincen Djeharu of the local legislative council read out the country's proclamation of independence.

In Bali, the site of three separate bombings by terrorists on Oct. 12, 2002, Independence Day celebrations took place peacefully.

Bali Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Pengasihan Gaut said on Sunday that no unusual incidents occurred on the resort island.

Security officers in Medan, North Sumatra, were on guard at public venues across the city in anticipation of possible terrorist attacks.

Both uniformed and plainclothes officers were deployed at public places, including resort areas. Local intelligence officers acknowledged that they had to work overtime following the terrorist attack on Aug. 5 at the JW Marriott Hotel, Jakarta.

In Yogyakarta province, the security condition was reported normal during the commemoration of Independence Day.

Chief of investigative police Sr. Comr. Toto Sunyoto said there had been no disturbances from Saturday evening until Sunday afternoon in any of the five regencies of the province.