Tue, 14 May 2002

Killings continue after GAM, govt agree on cease-fire

Ibnu Mat Noor, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

Violence in restive Aceh continues to claim lives, only days after the government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) vowed to end hostility in Geneva, Switzerland.

Eight people were killed in skirmishes over the weekend at three different locations, military sources said.

Three members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and two GAM members were among the fatalities in a 30-minute exchange of fire in the village of Blang Mane, Bireuen regency, 200 kilometers to the east of Banda Aceh, local military spokesman Maj. Zaenal Mutaqin told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

In Jakarta, the negotiator for the Indonesian government in the Geneva talks, Wirjono Sastrohandojo, said after a meeting with Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that the two parties had agreed to work toward a cease fire.

"We have yet to arrive at a cease-fire, however we are trying to get to that stage," he told reporters on Monday.

Wirjono said the talks had been "positive" and hoped that the next meeting could be held in Jakarta in about two months time.

The GAM military wing commander at Bireuen regency, Darwis Djeunieb, said that the clash broke out when GAM members were retreating to their barracks in the forest and encountered TNI troops.

In another showdown in the village of Kandang in Pidie regency, two GAM members were shot dead on Sunday.

Maj. Mutaqin said unidentified men on motorbikes opened fire on three TNI members in separate incidents in Lhokseumawe, killing one and severely wounding two others.

Asked whether the efforts toward cease-fire would include withdrawal of military troops from Aceh, Wirjono said his job was a negotiator not troops commander.

When asked about the alleged split between the military and the foreign affairs ministry in viewing the Aceh conflict, Wirjono said he was aware that the two organizations have yet to work more harmoniously.

"Naturally, the tasks of diplomats differ from that of the militarymen. As negotiators we do hope to have a peaceful situation but when our securitymen were attacked they had to defend themselves," he said.

Separately, a man was arrested on Sunday while planting a makeshift bomb near the ExxonMobil gas compound in the village of Lung, Matangkuli district, Mutaqin said.

GAM spokesman Sofyan Daud told the Post on Sunday that he was not aware of the shooting of the three TNI members and the arrest of a man near the ExxonMobil gas compound.

"The report I received was that many villagers were arrested by TNI members when the TNI swept through the villages near the ExxonMobil gas compound. Some of them were found dead with bullet wounds," Sofyan said.

Twelve people have died since the peace talks ended Friday in Geneva, including four TNI members, four GAM members and four civilians. This year alone, 400 people have been killed.