Mon, 21 Aug 2000

Violence continues in Aceh as govt ponders tough action

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): Violence continued to mar the humanitarian pause in Aceh over the weekend, as the government is considering taking more decisive measures against the separatist movement in the restive province.

In the latest series of incidents, three soldiers were wounded in a grenade blast and a military post was attacked in West Aceh just before midnight on Saturday.

The attacks came hours after Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab said in Jakarta he had been discussing with his counterparts around the world the possibility of introducing more decisive measures against Aceh rebels grouped in the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Aceh military authorities said on Sunday the grenade exploded in Pante village in Beutong district. The injured were rushed to a clinic in Meulaboh, about 70 kilometers from the scene of the explosion.

The military post which was attacked is located in Seunagan district, about 12 kilometers from Beutong. No casualties were reported.

In a related development, Sabang Naval Base Commander Col. Syahrin Abdurrahman confirmed on Sunday a Navy officer identified only as Capt. Agus went missing along with seven people aboard a public minivan traveling between Banda Aceh and Medan on Wednesday.

Chief of Banda Aceh bus terminal Muhammad Yasin said on Sunday the minivan was last seen on a road linking Bireun and Banda Aceh on Wednesday.

"We fear for their safety because public transportation was not supposed to be operating from Wednesday to Friday because of possible tension during Independence Day in Aceh," Yasin said.

Meanwhile, Aceh Police chief Brig. Gen. Doddy Sumantywan said on Sunday his office would continue the investigation into weapons and other military equipment found inside a roof of a mosque in Kandang, North Aceh, on Thursday.

The police seized 462 GLM ammunition, 400 pairs of Malaysia- made boots, four sacks of combat fatigues, a rocket launcher, a trigger rocket, several military documents dating back to the military operation between 1988 and 1998 in Aceh, a laptop, a copy machine, a printer, batteries and diskettes.


Speaking to journalists during his 54th birthday celebration on Saturday, Alwi said Jakarta had asked several countries to make suggestions to solve the Aceh issue.

"I have had several discussions with my counterparts in the hope of receiving more ideas to solve the Aceh problem, but so far nobody has come up with anything. Indonesia should start to talk about the substance to keep its territorial integrity," he said.

Alwi said further that the government could no longer be patient with GAM and it was time to take more decisive measures against the separatists group to ensure Aceh remained part of the country.

"Jakarta is always open to discussion with GAM as long as it is within the boundaries of keeping territorial integrity. GAM must know it is pointless to keep asking for independence," he added.

Commenting on the humanitarian pause, Alwi said the government would see in the next few days whether GAM continued to violate the terms of the agreement, and it was possible that Indonesia would review the agreement.

"There should be some conclusion to the issue, we should start to talk about the substance to end the issue once and for all," Alwi remarked. (50/edt/dja)