Thu, 22 May 2003

Jakarta Police begin hunt for alleged GAM operatives

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanegara said that the police already knew about the venues allegedly used by members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) as hideouts and where they might carry out retaliatory attacks in the city, following the military operation in Aceh province.

He said the police, in coordination with other related security institutions, had started a hunt for the rebels, who might be planning violent attacks.

"We know a number of their hideouts," Makbul told the media on Wednesday, but declined to specify the places or how many of them there might be.

He made the statement after taking part in a meeting with military and city administration officials to discuss possible terrorist attacks in the city, following the military operation in Aceh.

Chaired by Governor Sutiyoso, the meeting was also attended by Makbul Padmanegara, Jakarta Military Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. George Joisuta, Jakarta High Court chief Ridwan Nasution and City Council Speaker Agung Imam Soemanto.

Sutiyoso said suspected locations included rented houses, apartments and places normally used as short-term accommodation.

The governor said he has instructed officials in the city with territorial authority, such as mayors, district and subdistrict heads and heads of neighborhood and community units, to ensure that the areas under their jurisdiction were not used as bases by the terrorists.

"The head of a neighborhood unit, for example, should know of all the people living within his territory. Therefore, any new people coming to stay there should be recorded," Sutiyoso added.

Commenting on security officials' action, E.M. Hadi Thayeb, a native of Aceh who lives in Menteng, Central Jakarta, warned security officers to be careful in carrying out searches.

"We hope that they really only fight against the state enemy, as the majority of Acehnese here are against GAM," said Hadi, a former Indonesian ambassador to Britain in the early 1990s.

Sutiyoso also urged Jakarta residents to actively take part in the fight against terrorists. "You should not only report suspected terrorists, but arrest them if you dare and hand them over to the police," he said.