Fri, 30 Nov 2001

Five more killed on eve of GAM anniversary

Ibnu Mat Noor, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

At least five people were killed and five more seriously injured in separate, violent incidents in the strife-torn province of Aceh on Wednesday, separatist movement and military sources said here on Thursday.

Spokesman for the local military Lt. Col. Firdaus said that two rebels were killed and two others were in a critical condition after gunfights between the military and the Free Aceh Movement in Geunteng Timu and Pasie Lhok villages in Pidie regency and in Lambadeuk village near Banda Aceh.

The gunfights occurred when the military carried out routine patrols in the villages, he said, adding the military had also seized three guns from the rebels.

Firdaus said Chief Pvt. Sarbaini was shot by two gunmen on his way home to Paloh Pineung village in Lhokseumawe on Wednesday.

Tengku Jamaika, GAM's spokesman in Lhokseumauwe, said GAM had been responsible for Sarbaini's killing.

In South Aceh, a handmade bomb exploded in a village in Tapaktuan, killing a nine-year-old child instantly and leaving two others seriously injured.

The injured children, who are in a critical condition, are still undergoing intensive medical treatment in the Tapaktuan general hospital.

Chief of the Tapaktuan police precinct, Adj. Sr. Comr. Agus Mandarwanto, said the bomb exploded while the children were playing football with it, having found it at a public health center in the village.

In East Aceh, a local trader was found dead after being severely burned. "The victim went missing on Tuesday when he went shopping in Langsa," Zulkifli Usman, a relative of the victim, said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Yusuf Puteh, a human rights activist, said unidentified gunmen had kidnapped six passengers on a Anugrah bus in East Aceh on Monday night and they had yet to be released.

Amri Abdul Wahab, commander of GAM's military wing, denied responsibility for the kidnapping, saying GAM never abducted civilian people.

"We checked with our network in East Aceh. The abduction may have been committed by gunmen loyal to the local military because the incident occurred near a military checkpoint in the regency," he said.

On the eve of GAM's 25th anniversary (Dec. 4, 2001), both the local police and military have intensified their security operations in an attempt to prevent GAM from staging a celebration.

Firdaus asked local and foreign journalists not to cover the celebration of GAM's anniversary for security reasons.

"We do not want media employees to be targeted by GAM," he said.