Thu, 06 Jan 2000

Military denies role in killing spree

SURABAYA (JP): The chief of the Brawijaya Military Command has strongly denied involvement of a military member in the killing spree in the city of Malang, East Java, and rebuked the media for reporting the allegation.

Maj. Gen. Sudi Silalahi said on Wednesday that the allegation was baseless.

"We cannot say and do anything based only on allegations. For God's sake, I guarantee that no military members were involved in the killings. They (military members) have religion and morals, while the killings were sadistic and immoral."

He said he had sent a letter of protest to the Surabaya branch of the Legal Aid Institute (LBH), which announced that a military member, identified only as ER, was found by residents at the site of the ninth killing on Dec. 23 in Malang, some 90 kms south of Surabaya.

The LBH investigation team alleged that ER of the Kalipare Military Subdistrict Command (Koramil) was behind the murder.

Sudi said the LBH allegation was wrong. "I have checked at Kalipare Koramil. No one there is identified as ER. So the allegation was meant to play the military against the people."

In the letter of protest dated Dec. 30, Sudi said that the Surabaya LBH statements were biased and intended to corner the military.

In an interview with The Jakarta Post, director of Surabaya LBH Indro Sugianto said his organization would disclose the final report from the investigation team.

"Now the people have become cleverer. There is no need to hide everything (from the people). The people deserve to get accurate and adequate information," Indro said.

The ninth victim was a 65-year-old woman, identified as Alimah Saniwar.

She was found with severe slash wounds to her back at her home in Sumber Runcing village early Wednesday morning last week.

Witnesses said the victim's house was set alight by a mob.

East Java Police chief Maj. Gen. M. Dayat announced that 35 people were detained as suspects throughout Malang precinct.

Some of them were believed to be the instigators of the killing spree. "One of them, identified as Maryono, hailed from Jakarta. He escaped and is believed to have returned to Jakarta. We will hunt him everywhere," he told journalists at a breaking of the fast gathering.

Dayat also urged people to be on alert for the murders to spread. "The killings will likely move to Blitar and Kediri. Both towns have the same characteristics as South Malang."

The killings were well organized and backed by certain groups, Dayat added without elaboration.

Blitar and Kediri are some 100 kms west of Malang.

Malang Regional Police chief Col. Aryanto said last week that investigations indicated political motives in the murders.

He did not go into details, but disclosed that most of the suspects detained were relatives of members of the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Observers also assumed that the killings might have a similar motive to the slayings of at least 150 people in six regencies in East Java, including Banyuwangi, in September 1998.

The initial targets were people suspected of practicing black magic, but Muslim preachers were among the later victims. (nur/sur)