Sat, 12 Feb 2000

Strong blast rocks Boker red-light area, injures 12

JAKARTA (JP): A strong blast rocked the Boker red-light district in East Jakarta, in the wee hours of Friday, injuring at least 12 people including Army and police officers, according to witnesses and a police source.

The police source, who asked for anonymity, said that before the blast, a dispute had erupted among five security personnel allegedly arguing over distribution of so-called "protection fees".

"That area is widely-known to be 'well-protected' by certain police and Army officers, often getting into fights over the fees," the source said.

He identified the five injured officers as First Pvt. Dandy Saprail of the city's main regiment (Rindam Jaya), First Sgt. Armadi from Group IV of the Army's elite Special Force (Kopassus), Fajar, whose rank was unknown, also of Kopassus, Second Sgt. Hendor Purwanto and First Sgt. Widodo, both of the Jakarta Police.

The civilians injured, mostly pierced by pieces of metal, were identified later as resident Ali Imron and the ladies who are at the site include Ratina, Purwani, Rosita, Herlina, Ika and Ita, all in their 20s and 30s.

Separately, city police spokesman Lt. Col. Zainuri Lubis said that the blast came from a hand grenade allegedly thrown by two unidentified people passing through the area on a motorcycle.

"East Jakarta Police are still investigating the case.

The injured are receiving medical treatment in separate hospitals, including Pasar Rebo hospital, National Police Kramatjati hospital in East Jakarta, and the Gatot Subroto Army hospital in Central Jakarta," Zainuri told reporters.

Some local residents told reporters that the blast took place at around 1 a.m. near a billiard center, which also runs a prostitution den.

The police arrived at the scene just a few minutes after the blast to secure the location.

Separately, Governor Sutiyoso said that the incident was a warning for city residents to give careful supervision to prostitution dens, as well as gambling spots.

"I have closed most of the places but I can't guarantee that they won't operate anymore," he told reporters at City Hall.

Sutiyoso said that security officers actually knew of the existence of the red-light area.

"We have to check first whether the injured officers were really customers or not," he said.

City Councilor Posman Siahaan of the Justice and Unity Party (PKP) faction said that city officials had to be consistent in their policy concerning vice activities.

"It's impossible that city officials are unaware of such activities there. They must take strong action to uphold city regulations," he said.

He was worried that street justice would occur again in the matter, if firm action was not taken.

"It's surprising that the suspects could acquire hand grenades. Ordinary residents don't have access to such things," he said.

"It shows that military and police leaders must investigate this case thoroughly," the councilor urged. (06/05/ylt)