Wed, 14 May 2003

Police across country on high alert for possible GAM attacks

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Police forces across the country, especially in Sumatra and Java, have heightened security measures to safeguard their respective territories from possible attacks from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara said on Tuesday that the police were put on a state of high alert ahead of the military operation in Aceh, to anticipate possible attacks targeting vital areas in the city.

"But, the status (of high alert) is only for the police, not for Jakartans in anticipation of the heightened security situation in the capital," he said, adding that residents should increase their alertness in their neighborhoods amid mounting security concerns.

Makbul also said that the police would beef up security in all vital places in the city.

The police chief made the decision following a statement by National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar, who revealed that GAM would likely engage in a series of terror acts in several areas outside Aceh, including Jakarta.

GAM would likely target public places and vital facilities in Jakarta, North Sumatra capital of Medan and Lampung, Da'i said.

The police earlier reported that the arrested GAM commander overseeing the Medan-Deli areas in North Sumatra, Abdul Wahab, had warned that GAM had 40 men who were "ready to spread acts of terror."

Abdul Wahab's deputy, Tengku Yahya bin Hanafiah, told The Jakarta Post that some 30,000 GAM members had entered the North Sumatra capital of Medan and were ready to attack, pending orders from the GAM commander in Aceh.

Tengku Yahya, who was arrested by the police last week, said that about 600 of the secessionist rebels had undergone military training in Libya.

"They've been sworn in by the (GAM) leadership in Aceh, (and are) ready to make a move in Medan if they've been ordered to go to war," claimed Yahya, who admitted that he had also been involved in a series of bombings in Medan.

He said on Monday that GAM could develop its cell in Medan quickly, because they recruited members in the same way as a multi-level marketing company.

"There were only 600 GAM members in Medan, but their number is increasing, because each one of the 600 recruited 50 people. They live somewhere outside of Medan now, but I don't know their location," he said, saying that the members assimilated themselves into the local community.

Medan Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Bagus Kurniawan doubted the figure, saying that it was excessive. However, he acknowledged that some GAM members had spread to the nearby Langkat and Asahan regencies.

Bagus said the police were currently on high alert, with thousands of officers deployed to guard a number of vital targets in Medan.

"We are providing extra-tight security to prevent the separatist from disrupting Medan's security," Bagus said.

On Monday, North Sumatra Governor Rizal Nurdin ordered his subordinates to screen refugees coming from Aceh to prevent possible infiltration by GAM. Local administrations were also told to record and monitor new residents from Aceh in their areas.

Security officers would give Acehnese refugees separate tags or other means of identification in an attempt to monitor their movements.

In Riau, the police have set up a special team to monitor the entry points to the province in a bid to anticipate the wave of Acehnese refugees to the province.

"The operations aims at monitoring GAM leaders and to discourage them from infiltrating Riau," said Riau Police Chief Brig. Gen. Deddy Komaruddin.

The police would also launch "sweeping" operations against suspicious trucks and public buses that enter or leave Riau, he added.

"The sweeping is to anticipate crimes like robberies and drug dealing that might be used to finance GAM operations," Deddy said.

Separately in Jakarta, National Police Chief of Detectives Comr. Gen. Erwin Mappaseng told reporters on Monday that the police had arrested nine more alleged GAM members in neighboring Bengkulu over the weekend, following Yahya's arrest.

Erwin identified six of the nine as Darwin, Zulkifli bin Alamsyah, Edi Junaidi bin Alamsyah, Mansyur bin Wahid, Asri M. Saleh and Muhi bin Jamil.

"They are involved in selling drugs and other crimes allegedly committed for GAM's interests," he told reporters at the National Police headquarters.

The remaining three are allegedly high-ranking officials of GAM, and have been identified as M. Jamil bin Abdul Rahman, Said Umar bin Saidsyah and A.N. Nasru, alias Ayah Kumis.

Erwin claimed that Jamil was the GAM advisor for Bengkulu, while Said was the GAM treasurer of Bengkulu. Erwin did not mention the role of Ayah Kumis.