Tue, 15 Jan 2002

Shoot-on-sight order imposed in restive Aceh

Ibnu Mat Noor, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

In an abrupt response to a call for a massive transport strike, Brig. Gen. Djali Yusuf, commander of military operations in Aceh, has ordered security officers to shoot on sight anyone found disturbing public interests.

"I have ordered all security personnel to shoot on sight those found intentionally disturbing the public interest or peace," he told The Jakarta Post by telephone here on Monday.

"Those found felling trees to block the roads, inciting people to join a strike or planting explosives in public places will be shot on sight," he said.

Djali was responding to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM)'s call for a three-day general strike, starting this Wednesday, to protest what the separatist rebels say is excessive brutality by military and police forces.

The move also comes as an objection to the government's plan to reinstate the Iskandar Muda Military Command in the strife- torn province.

Security personnel have been deployed from all available forces from Monday on to counter the call for the strike action.

Djali said that the police and military would make all their vehicles available for public transport "if operators halt services following the strike call."

Leaders of the Aceh administration, security forces and community leaders have all united in urging the public to ignore the strike order, saying it is misleading and will only bring more suffering to the people of the embattled province.

"All Acehnese people are asked to ignore GAM's call for a total strike, and to continue their daily activities in accordance with their own professions," said a joint statement read by Aceh Governor Abdullah Puteh on Monday.

The statement was jointly signed by the governor, Deputy Chairman of the Aceh Legislative Council T. Bachrum Manyak, provincial Prosecutors' Office Chief Sunaryo, provincial police/security restoration operation chief Insp. Gen. Yusuf Mangga Barani, and Brig. Gen. Djali Yusuf.

The statement also said that the Acehnese should not fear the strike call because both the police and the military will protect them on all roads, and at the administration, economic and social centers across the province.

It went on to say that any strike will bring needless suffering to all people in Aceh, and would work against the teachings of Islam.

Security personnel, according to the statement, will take strict actions against anyone inciting the strike.

Djali, an Acehnese, called on the people not to be affected by GAM's call.

"Why should we feel frightened with them? We've been feeling threatened so far even without being threatened," he asserted.

GAM spokesman Teungku Sofyan Dawood said one of the purposes of the strike was to attract international attention to the question of Acehnese independence.

"We ask the people of Aceh to stay to pray at home and places of worship during the three-day strike," he said.

Violence between GAM and security forces continues to inflict fatalities. More than 50 people, including innocent civilians, were killed in the first two weeks of the year.

Maj. Zaenal Mutaqin, a spokesman for the military operation in the province, said security officers shot dead two rebels in a skirmish in Temarem village, West Aceh on Sunday.

One of the two was identified as 24-year-old Ardiansyah.

Security officials also seized a .36-caliber pistol, a set of communications radios and receipts bearing the GAM logo.

Soldiers also shot three other rebels who were found vandalizing a two-meter section of road in Lhok Pusong, Bireuen, in an attempt to block troops from raiding on their base.

In another bloody episode, two suspected rebels were killed in a military raid on an alleged rebel hideout in a village in West Aceh, also on Sunday.

Two bodies with gunshot wounds were found in a river in a village on the outskirts of provincial capital Banda Aceh on the same day, a human rights activist said.