Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Troops reportedly run amok in Aceh following shooting

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): A large number of residents were injured after a gang of soldiers and police officers reportedly ran amok on Sunday, destroying shops and markets in the Idi Rayeuek district of East Aceh on Sunday.

Unconfirmed reports said three civilians were killed in the melee.

Locals said the incident started minutes after two soldiers were shot dead in a local fish market by unidentified persons, who then stole their guns.

The assailants are still at large, while the two deceased soldiers have yet to be identified. East Aceh Police chief Supt. Abdullah Hayati was not available for comment on Sunday.

On Saturday, a skirmish between police and armed civilians occurred in the Krueng Sabe district of West Aceh, killing a suspected rebel identified as 32-year-old Zulkifli M. Zein, local police chief Supt. Satrya Hari Prasetya said on Sunday.

A convoy of police vehicles, including a troop-carrier transporting Satrya, was intercepted at two separate locations as it was heading from the main West Aceh town of Meulaboh to Krueng Sabe.

"The first attack took place around 12:15 p.m. some 14 kilometers from Krueng Sabe, while the second took place around 1:45 p.m. in Jurek village, about 24 kilometers away from the first site of the incident," Satrya told The Jakarta Post by phone on Sunday.

A Free Aceh Movement (GAM) spokesman in West Aceh Abu Tausi, however, denied that his men had ambushed the convoy.

Two men were also found dead with gunshot wounds late on Friday night and on Saturday in North Aceh and the Peuribu area of Samatiga district in West Aceh, respectively.

The first victim was identified as Asnawi Alamsyah who was shot by rebels, North Aceh Police chief Supt. Abadan Bangko said.

Meanwhile, the body of Utoh Teh, 30, was found under a bridge on the main Meulaboh-Banda Aceh highway on Saturday by Peuribu villagers.

Meanwhile, fresh soldiers arrived in the North Aceh port of Krueng Geukueh as part of a troop rotation, police said.

A total of 414 infantrymen from West Java landed while another 214 men continued on to Malahayati, the port serving Banda Aceh, the main city in Aceh, Abadan said.

GAM armed-wing commander Tengku Abdullah Syafii, however, urged his troops to respect the ongoing humanitarian pause in Aceh. "Jakarta tried to split us apart," he told the Serambi Indonesia daily from his hiding place in Pidie regency.


In a related development, Sentral Informasi Referendum Aceh /Sira (the Aceh Referendum Information Center), called on Acehnese people on Sunday to hold a half-day Istighotsah (special mass gathering) at their respective mosques on Aug. 16.

SIRA called on the people to hoist the United Nations' flag and banners demanding a referendum.

Sira Presidium chairman Muhammad Nazar said in a press release distributed to journalists that the people should stay indoors on Aug. 17.

"The Indonesian government and its military must not force the Acehnese to hoist the Red-and-White Banner to celebrate Indonesian Independence Day," Nazar said.

"Force will not work, but will rather result in new crimes." (50/edt/sur)