Mon, 26 Jun 2000

Rebel attacks still widespread in Aceh, says police chief

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): Outgoing Aceh Police chief Brig. Gen. Bachrumsyah Kasman warned of dangerous security disturbances here despite the humanitarian pause that came into effect on June 2.

Bachrumsyah said that although the number of disturbances had decreased following the peace agreement between Jakarta and Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels, more security personnel had been killed in attacks then before.

"There are certain parties trying to benefit from the relaxed situation during the pause by ambushing security personnel," he said on the sidelines of a ceremony on Saturday marking the induction of Aceh Police deputy chief Lt. Col. Teuku Asikin.

At least 400 people have been killed in the province this year, mostly in armed clashes between separatist rebels and security forces.

On Thursday a policeman was stabbed to death when drinking coffee in a kiosk in Darussalam district.

Bachrumsyah told his personnel to stay alert during the humanitarian pause.

"The facts show that although GAM seems to support the Geneva understanding on security here, it is also maintaining its intimidation of the people," said Bachrumsyah, who has been named the new East Kalimantan Police chief.

"We also support the humanitarian pause but we have to stay alert," he added.

He explained that the ongoing Cinta Meunasah police operation, a continuation of Operation Sadar Rencong, was not aimed at killing people but at maintaining security and order.

"The police are obliged to protect people, but, maybe in doing so, they are forced to eliminate other groups," he added.

Meanwhile in Banda Aceh a group of students held a protest in front of Kuala Tripa Hotel. The hotel is being used as the secretariat of the Joint Security Committee, which was set up after the accord signed by the government and GAM representatives to establish the humanitarian pause.

The students were expressing their dissatisfaction that violence was continuing despite the fact that the accord officially took effect on June 2.

Committee members Col. Ridwan Karim of the government and Nashiruddin bin Ahmad of GAM said later on Saturday that the team couldn't stop the violence in Aceh.

"We are only authorized to record the violations and incidents and later report them to the joint board in Geneva," Ridwan said.

Reports of violence continued over the weekend.

A 65-year-old woman named Teungku Ajibon was hit by a bullet on Saturday when security forces clashed with a group of some 30 armed men who were stopping and searching vehicles for weapons on the Jeuram-Ulee Jalan main road in West Aceh.

"The incident was prompted by an illicit sweeping operation conducted by members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). They were inspecting vehicles passing along the road," Hamdani, 35, a local from Keude Linteung, claimed.

Later in the afternoon security forces arrived at the scene to disperse the gunmen and an armed battle ensued.

Ajibon, a widow from Keude Linteng village, was hit in the thigh by a bullet. She was rushed to hospital.

In a separate incident, an explosion on Saturday at a plant belonging to PT Humpuss in Rancong Batupahat, North Aceh, damaged a kerosene pipeline, North Aceh Police chief Lt. Col. Syafei Aksal said.

"The explosion resulted in a leak in the pipeline but no casualties were reported," Syafei said. (50/edt/bby)