Fri, 23 May 2003

Police probe links Ambon killing to JI

Muhammad Aziz Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon, Maluku

Police here are investigating a possible link between the recent killing of three men in Ambon and Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), on suspicions the victims and the alleged killers were members of the terrorist group.

Police also dismissed reports that the victims were Acehnese, saying they had possibly come from the North Sumatra capital Medan.

"Their connection with Jamaah Islamiyah is still being investigated," said Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Bambang Sutrisno on Thursday.

Bambang said the police would crosscheck the three victims' identities with the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the Pattimura Military Command, which oversees Maluku and North Maluku. "We have to look back into their biographies, criminal records and political background," he said.

Police found the bodies of Tengku Fauzi, alias Abu Jihad, Ahmad Saridu, and Edi Putra alias ustadz (Islamic preacher) Edi.

They were kidnapped and murdered in February, their bodies buried in the hills of Batumerah around the provincial capital Ambon.

So far police have arrested eight suspects, seven on Wednesday and another on Thursday. Police are looking for four others, making 12 the number of total suspects behind the killing.

Seven of the detained suspects were identified as Hermanto, alias Yanto, Mansur Fataruba alias Tucek, Abdullah Prawira, Yudi Saptura, Ganes, Syarif Tarabubun and Rahmat Perwira. Yanto is the alleged mastermind.

Police said that Abu Jihad, Ahmad and Edi came to Ambon to invest in a clove business. They were abducted from the Nisma Hotel in Ambon on February 22, and not separately as police initially reported.

On February 23, ustadz Edi, accompanied by suspect Rahmat, even returned to the hotel to check out. The suspects murdered Ahmad and Abu Jihad on February 23, and Edi on February 25.

Police chief Bambang said the motive behind the killing was still unclear despite the arrest of eight suspects, including the alleged mastermind, Yanto.

A police source has said the murder was likely an execution as a result of rivalry among members of the Jamaah Islamiyah terrorist group.

According to him, Abu Jihad was a senior JI member as were some of the killers. However the reason for the supposed rivalry was unclear.

JI is an underground organization blamed for last October's terrorist strike that had killed 202 people in Bali.

Bambang gave little credence to Yanto's claim that he murdered the three because of their religious orientation.

Yanto had told the police that he had murdered the three because they were "traitors of the religion".

A neighbor of Yanto, Nyong Patty, said that Edi often stayed at Yanto's house when he comes to Ambon.

"Edi normally held religious lectures and he slept at the musholla inside the house of Yanto," said the neighbor.