Fri, 06 Jun 2003

German tourist killed in Aceh

The Jakarta Post, Lhokseumawe/Jakarta

One German national was killed and another wounded, as they were shot by military soldiers in an apparent accident after a villager reported suspicious movements behind his house in Lhok Gayo village, Teunom district in Aceh Jaya regency.

It was the first foreign casualty since martial law was declared in Aceh almost three weeks ago when the government warned foreign organizations and individuals against traveling to the province for security reasons.

Luther Hendrick Albert, 54, was shot and killed on Wednesday night, and his companion Elizabeth Margareth, 49, was shot in the knee and currently in the hospital, said the operational commander of military operation in Aceh, Brig. Gen. Bambang Darmono.

"The shooting followed a report at 9 p.m. from Zakaria, a local villager, about suspicious flashlight beams from behind his house. Based on the information we received, Zakaria was under threat by GAM," Bambang told a press conference on Thursday,

The victims were admitted to the military hospital in Meulaboh in West Aceh, but were later flown by Army plane to the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh.

It was not immediately clear what the Germans were doing in Aceh. Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the couple had been in Aceh since May 16 and visited several places in the province, including Takengon, Pidie and West Aceh.

Local reporters quoted Margareth as saying that she and her companion understood the danger of visiting a conflict-torn area.

Darmono flew to the site of incident as an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting is being conducted.

Quoting local police reports, Bambang said the two Germans entered Indonesia on a tourist visa and declared that they would go to Belawan in Medan.

Darmono said Zakaria reported his findings to the nearest military post of the 521st Battalion, located about one kilometer from his house.

Soldiers were dispatched to the sight where Zakaria saw the flashlight. The flashlight was visible when the soldiers arrived.

"The soldiers shouted a warning and asked 'who is there?'," said Bambang. He said there was no response and the soldiers fired three warning shots into the air. The flashlight went off immediately and soldiers then took aim in the direction of the light.

When combing the site, they found the German couple.

In Jakarta, the government expressed "deep concern" over the incident and called for an immediate and thorough investigation.

"I asked for an immediate, thorough, honest and objective investigation. This is an undesired incident and this issue could trigger the wrong perception among the international community about what we are doing now in Aceh," Susilo said.

The German Embassy in Jakarta said it would send two officials as soon as possible to Aceh to collect "information about the circumstances of the shooting" and to provide consular assistance to Margareth.

In its statement, the embassy said it had been informed by the Indonesian government of the incident.

It refrained, however, from giving further details on the victim's identity or the circumstances of the shooting.

Also on Thursday, a power blackout hit Lhokseumawe. Head of the North Aceh office of state electricity company PT PLN, Sulaeman Daud, said the blackout was a result of an arson attack on two electricity relay stations in Perlak in East Aceh.

Sulaeman added that the power blackout might also affect other Aceh areas, including North Aceh, East Aceh, Central Aceh and Pidie.