Thu, 20 Nov 2003

Gunmen launch attack on police post in Poso

Irvan NR, The Jakarta Post, Palu, Central Sulawesi

Despite heightened security measures, gunmen launched a fresh attack early on Wednesday in Poso regency, Central Sulawesi, further shattering almost a year of peace in the religiously divided province, police and activists said.

The unidentified attackers, numbering at least 15, targeted a security post in the hamlet of Taripa at Toini village, Poso Pesisir subdistrict, at around 12:30 a.m.

They fired shots twice at the post, where police officers on guard immediately confronted them. The firefight then erupted and the gunmen fled to a nearby jungle after around 10 minutes of fighting.

No casualties were reported but many local villagers were forced to flee their homes in panic as they feared they were being targeted. The local authorities evacuated some other local residents to safer areas after the incident.

The local police said dozens of military and police officers were deployed to search for the gunmen.

"Security officers immediately combed the jungle near Toini village. We don't know yet if the attackers have been captured or not," said local human rights activist Syamsul Alam, who was at the scene.

The attack came despite the reinforcements of police officers in Poso following the latest deaths of at least three people blamed on mysterious gunmen. There are currently around 3,200 police and soldiers on alert in the regency.

Poso Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Abdi Dharma said it was still safe as most local residents resumed their daily activities.

He said the police were looking for local villager Husen Garusu, 50, who is still missing after armed men stopped his bus at Kuku village, Lage subdistrict, Poso, on Monday.