Fri, 22 Sep 2000

Humanitarian pause brought more casualties, says Graito

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesian Military (TNI) spokesman Rear Marshall Graito Usodo said on Thursday that the humanitarian pause in restive Aceh province had failed to create a positive environment to settle the region's problems and had led to more casualties.

"Since the implementation of the first phase of the humanitarian pause on June 2, 2000, which ended on Sept. 2, until Wednesday, 40 civilians have died, 122 have been injured, nine have been declared missing and eight others abducted.

"Meanwhile, 21 security officers have died, 88 have been injured, two have been abducted and one is still missing," Graito said at a media conference at the Ministry of Defense on Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta.

He accused the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) of using the first phase of the truce for consolidation and training.

"Their move has caused losses to the military and the police. But we have taken necessary measures to settle the losses," he said without elaborating.

Meanwhile, Banda Aceh Police chief Supt. Sayed Hoesainy said tension in the capital had escalated as the police had received a tip-off about a separatist rebel plan to plant bombs in the city, targeting security officers' vehicles.

"But, we have deployed a bomb squad to investigate and to clear the streets of bombs," he said.

He was not able to say how many bombs had been planted.

Sayed said a homemade bomb exploded on Thursday on the main Banda Aceh-Medan highway in Lampakuk area, Aceh Besar, when two police trucks were passing by. One officer was reportedly injured when one of the trucks careered into a ravine.

He said that another homemade bomb exploded on Thursday in Saree village, Seulimuem district, Aceh Besar.

Sayed also said that over the past few days a group of armed rebels had burned down some 20 houses in the Saree area, some 70 kilometers from the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

As a result, hundreds of farmers have been made homeless and forced to flee to mosques and community posts, he said.

"We regret the arson attacks as it is the residents that have suffered the most," Sayed said.

In a related development, North Aceh Police chief Supt. Abadan Bangko said six officers were injured when a bomb rocked a joint police-military post in Lhokseumawe on Thursday.

North Aceh rebel commander Abu Sofyan Daud said the Free Aceh Movement was responsible for the attack.

Abadan also said armed rebels attacked three military trucks carrying supplies in Blang Mangat district, in North Aceh regency, leaving one soldier dead and five others injured.

"Around 20 rebels attacked the convoy with grenade launchers and rifles," he said.

Abadan said that several hours after the incident, another group of rebels attacked a military district command in Meurahmulia, North Aceh. No casualties were reported.

On Wednesday afternoon, a branch of the state-owned Bank Rakyat Indonesia in Bireuen, North Aceh regency, was held up by two robbers armed with weapons and grenades.

"They fled the scene with Rp 53 million (US$6,162) in cash," Abadan said.

He added that on Wednesday a vehicle belonging to the same bank was hit when it was passing through Senobok Nalan village in Jeunieb subdistrict, Bireuen. Three bank employees were injured.

"The armed rebels are responsible for this bloody incident," he said, adding that shortly after the attack a group of police officers and soldiers were deployed to comb the area to track down the attackers. (50/lup)