Thu, 18 Sep 2003

One senior GAM leader killed: TNI

Teuku Agam Muzakir The Jakarta Post Lhokseumawe, Aceh

Government troops claimed on Wednesday that they have killed one senior leader of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Indonesian Military (TNI) Operation Spokesman Lt. Col. Achmad Yani Basuki said Tengku Jailani died from severe blood loss late on Tuesday, in a separate incident hours after government troops had engaged in armed combat with the rebels on the slope of Geulegoh mountain, Bireuen regency.

Jailani's wife Suryati, 27, also died of the same cause. The couple's nine-year-old child survived the gunfight.

Tengku Jailani, 30, who allegedly admitted he was the GAM governor of Linge district in Central Aceh, is the first senior rebel to be killed since the military operation started on May 19.

However, no independent source has yet confirmed the report.

According to Yani, the gunfight began as soldiers of the Pandawa infantry battalion received a tip-off from local people that some 10 GAM rebels were seen wandering around the Geulegoh area on Tuesday.

A unit of troops deployed to the area, and a gunfight broke out immediately after the soldiers arrived in the area. Outnumbered by the government troops, the GAM rebels apparently retreated quickly.

The soldiers began combing the mountain slope in order flush out any remaining GAM members, when a TNI soldier spotted three people fetching water from a river in the area -- one adult male, one adult female and one child.

Suspicious that they were GAM members, the troops fired warning shots. The three turned and ran, and the soldiers shot at the two adults, hitting them.

The two severely injured adults were then taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

An investigation into the shooting revealed that the man was Tengku Jailani and the woman was his wife Suryati. It was also found that one bullet had pierced through the left side of Jailani's chest, while another had lodged into the right-hand side of Suryati's chest.

The troops seized a satellite phone and a notebook containing the names and cellular phone numbers of GAM leaders from Jailani, along with his identity card that declared he was a resident of Medan, North Sumatra.

Finding the satellite cellular phone, the troops became suspicious that the wounded man was a GAM leader, and Jailani admitted later that he was one of GAM's governors. From Jailani, the troops also seized one GAM flag and a set of TNI uniform.

The couple's child, whose gender is not known at this time, has apparently been taken into TNI custody.

Yani said the TNI had also killed 18 GAM troops in separate gunfights in Bireuen, Pidie and North Aceh regencies on Tuesday.

Separately, spokesman of Aceh martial law administrator Col. Ditya Sudarsono said on Wednesday in Banda Aceh that 897 GAM members had been killed during the four-month operation.

The TNI has seized 372 weapons from the separatists, while it claimed more than 1,800 other rebels had been arrested or had surrendered.

The TNI and police together have lost 66 members.

Meanwhile, GAM spokesman Tengku Mansur denied reports that prominent GAM leader Ishak Daud was still under siege as of Wednesday by TNI troops somewhere in Aceh.

He told AFP that Ishak had fled and was now in a safe place.