Sat, 28 Jun 2003

GAM district chief and police chief arrested

A'an Suryana The Jakarta Post Lhokseumawe, Aceh

Soldiers captured on Friday two alleged Free Aceh Movement (GAM) separatists who acted as the rebels' district chief and police chief for the GAM district Tangse in the village of Pulo Kawah in Pidie regency.

A joint unit of the 315th Infantry Battalion and the local Pidie military command arrested the two and an alleged GAM tax collector, said the Pidie military commander Lt. Col. Supartodi.

The three were nabbed as they were holding a meeting at the "district chief's" house, Supartodi said, adding that the arrest was made possible through a tip off by the locals.

He said that Marwan, 45, was a GAM district chief, Rusdi, 40, the police chief and Muin, 50, the district's tax collector.

Friday's arrest marks the first report of a captured GAM district chief during the six weeks of military operation crush the movement.

In GAM strongholds found in regencies like Pidie and Bireuen, the rebels have established an organization that mimics the government's existing structure at the local levels.

In some districts where support for independence is strong, government officials often fail to function properly and GAM virtually run these areas.

However, what is referred to as GAM police are often civilians acting as spies for the rebels reporting about troops movements.

In an attempt to end the conflict within short period, the Indonesian Military (TNI) intensified on Friday their search for GAM members across the province.

In East Aceh's Idi Rayeuk district, TNI troops led by Lt. Col. Echsan Sutardji tightened their encirclement of about 200 alleged GAM members in Jamo Campli area, located a few kilometers from Blang Rambong village. GAM commander Hasballah is believed to be leading the rebel group.

Echsan told reporters at his command post in Blang Rambong that they tried to cut GAM's logistical support.

"We are intensifying patrols, so that they cannot ask for food from surrounding villagers," said Echsan, who comes from the Wonoadi Infantry Battalion in Southeast Sulawesi.

During Thursday's raid for GAM members in Blang Rambong's surrounding areas, soldiers found several documents in one of the homes. They also found several photographs, depicting pictures of GAM military training in the area early this year.,

Soldiers found notebooks containing tax collection reports from several companies in the are. These include a plantation company PT Bumi Flora, which paid between Rp 19 million (about US$1,850) to Rp 36 million per week.

During the search, soldiers also found an ID card belonging to Alamsyah Puteh. TNI has accused GAM of collecting ID cards from locals in an attempt to better melt into the local population. GAM members normally do not own ID cards, and TNI said that it would consider anyone without an ID card as a possible GAM rebel.

Elsewhere in the Alu Dua area in North Aceh, soldiers led by Lt. Col. Rimbo Karyono found GAM properties in a house belonging to Rahmawati, whose husband, Ismail Ghani, is suspected of being a GAM member.

In the Juli Satoe subdistrict in Bireun regency, marines and the police's mobile brigade troops (Brimob) raided the house of two alleged GAM tax collectors, Tengku Nurdin and Ridwan.

Separately, GAM members allegedly burned down a community health center in the village of Pulo in Meuredu district in Pidie regency on Thursday night.

Five GAM members are also accused of burning down a bus in Pidie, injuring four passengers.