Fri, 29 Sep 2000

Bondowoso Police shoot dead five attackers

JAKARTA (JP): Five people were shot dead by police who were attempting to fend off a mob attacking a police station in the East Java town of Bondowoso, National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro said on Thursday.

"I have a report from the East Java Police chief that yesterday (Wednesday) at 5 p.m., an attack on the Bondowoso district police station took place by some 600 people carrying fuel bombs, sickles and other weapons," Bimantoro told journalists after attending a Cabinet meeting.

The attackers set fire to Bondowoso Police station and in their efforts to repel and disperse the mob, police shot dead five and left several injured.

"In facing it (the attack), the police went through all existing procedures, from using rubber bullets to live ones," Bimantoro said.

He said the attack was in protest of the release of a murder suspect.

Police released the suspect due to lack of evidence, Bimantoro said, but the move angered the local population who torched the suspect's home and later attacked the police station.

He said that the situation in Bondowoso had since returned to normal.

"The situation is now calm," Bimantoro said, adding that the province's police chief, Insp. Gen. Dai Bachtiar, had immediately gone to Bondowoso and held talks with local public and religious leaders.

Bondowoso Police chief Supt. Marwoto Suto said later in the day, however, that security personnel were still on high alert to anticipate further unrest.

He also said that a platoon of police Mobile Brigade personnel and one battalion of Army troops from the nearby town of Jember would be deployed to Bondowoso to reinforce security.

However, from the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, the regional chief of the Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim organization, Ali Maschan Moesa, claimed that the unrest was sparked by people's discontent over Marwoto's possible involvement in a gambling ring.

"The East Java Police chief has even acknowledged that he (Marwoto) is slow in tackling gambling. But the people of Bondowoso feel that he is not only slow but actually behind the gambling," Ali said as quoted by Antara, adding that Marwoto must be replaced.

"The police chief has promised that he will be replaced ... I have told people the news, and that's why the situation has calmed down," Ali added.(byg/nur)