Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Violence in Bireuen regency continues

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Lhokseumawe, Aceh

The bedug (large drum) outside the small mosque in Ujung Blang village, Gandapura district, Bireuen, pounded incessantly on Tuesday, signaling that the remains of another victim of Indonesia's brutal war in Aceh had been found.

Curious residents soon gathered at a wooden house where two bodies were laid out pending burial.

A woman, Asmaul, 20, was weeping for the death of her mother, Wardani Ibrahim, 48, and sister Nurlina, 25, who were both shot by a group of unidentified people as they were leaving for the market to sell traditional cookies early in the morning.

Asmaul will now go to live with her grandmother. Her father passed away in 1996 of an illness.

"Why were they killed? The family had only been selling timpan tepu (traditional food) to survive since the death of Wardani's husband," one of the neighbors said.

The attackers opened fire at Wardani and Nurlina as they were riding a motorcycle on Jl. Ulee Tutu in Tingkeuem Baruonly, near the main road connecting the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh and the neighboring provincial capital of Medan. The mother was shot in the chest, while Nurlila was shot in the head and abdomen from close range.

Gandapura Police chief Second Insp. Ramlis accused the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels of committing the murders. The victims used to sell their timpan tepu to troops in the Kuta Blang area.

"The soldiers often bought food from them, so they may have been taken for cuak (collaborators), or perhaps they were killed because they refused to give the money demanded by GAM," Ramlis said.

He said the same modus operandi was used in the murder of Budiman Chamsyah, a businessman from Gandapura district, on Monday for reportedly refusing to pay protection money demanded by GAM.

However, witnesses said one of the two men who shot Budiman wore a red-and-white bandana and had a small red-and-white flag attached to the muzzle of his rifle.

Ramlis refused to comment on this allegation, saying the police were investigating both murder cases.

Later on Tuesday, the Gandapura branch of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) unearthed a grave containing the remains of an unidentified man in a remote area surrounded by shrimp ponds in Blang Re. The nearest village, Samuti Krueng, is about two kilometers away from the grave.

The partly decomposed body had been shot in the leg and abdomen. His face, which had been covered by a sarong, was no longer recognizable. Bullet casings were also found inside the grave.

The body was that of a man in his 30s, 1.65 meters in height, light complexion, and wearing a beard and moustache. According to the PMI's Gandapura coordinator, Nurdin, the body may have been in the ground for up six days.

It was the fifth grave containing unidentified remains discovered in the district in the last two days.

The graves of four unidentified men were exhumed on Monday in two different locations. All the victims had been shot.

No one has so far claimed the bodies.

As of Monday, the state-run Dr. Fauziah Hospital in Bireuen had treated 32 civilian victims, 12 of them suffering from gunshot wounds.

The hospital's morgue had also received 37 bodies, most of them civilians.

According to morgue attendant, Bahroem, the bodies had been buried in Karang Rejo cemetery in Jeumpa district.