Mon, 15 May 2000

Violence rocks Aceh despite truce agreement in Davos

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): Just 24-hours after representatives of the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed a Joint Understanding on Humanitarian Pause, violence erupted in the province injuring at least six people.

North Aceh Police chief Lt. Col. Syafei Aksal said on Sunday a Rajawali military unit was intercepted by rebels at Gedeumbak village around Sereuke settlement in Tanah Jambo Aye district on Saturday afternoon.

"The unit had just delivered communication devices in Sereuke from Poh Drin village in Asam Mirah when rebels intercepted them. The gunfights lasted for about 15 minutes," Syafei explained.

After withdrawing about 300 meters away from the shooting, the military unit was again ambushed by rebels, he said, adding that Pvt. Deny Sutresna suffered a gunshot wound in the thigh while several other civilians trapped in the crossfire were also wounded.

There are conflicting accounts on how the battle began.

A local rebel leader claimed that the soldiers had initiated the confrontation by intimidating villagers in the area.

"If the soldiers had not attacked civilians, we would not have done that," Abu Sofyan, a local rebel commander, said.

Abu said the insurgents only intervened to protect the villagers.

Several residents, said while searching on Wednesday in the Tanah Jambo Aye area to find a detainee named Yasin who had escaped from the sub-district military post in Julok, East Aceh, one soldier wildly fired several bursts into the village of Geudeumbak wounding five civilians.

The injured residents were identified as the wife of Gedeumbak village chief, Latifah Ahmad, 35, a local named Nizar Rauf, 20, and three other housewives -- Hasanah, 35, Asiah, 30 and Juwairiah, 35. All suffered gunshot wounds.

Witnesses also said two soldiers were injured in the incident.

Another, possibly retaliatory, attack occurred at about 00:30 a.m. on Sunday when gunmen shot at the Pantau Labu police post in Jambo Aye, North Aceh.

In a separate incident on Saturday, a 30-year-old man identified as a local named Zulkifli, alias Sidon, stole a Colt revolver belonging to Sgt. Fauzan of Baktya Police subprecinct.

The officer was having coffee in a kiosk at Alu Ie Puteh village, when suddenly Zulkifli, who police suspect is a rebel, snatched the gun from behind and fled on a motorcycle.

The latest bout of tension came on the heels of the historic signing of a peace accord in Switzerland on Friday, that many hope may pave the way for peace.

Meanwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab stressed over the weekend that the talks conducted with GAM were conducted under the concept of Aceh as an integrated-part of Indonesia.

"It is a fact that the international community supports Indonesia's territorial integrity," Alwi was quoted by Antara as saying in The Hague on Saturday.

Alwi said the signing took place in Davos, Switzerland, because self-exiled GAM leader Hasan Tiro refused to come to Indonesia. Tiro has been living in Sweden since 1979. (50/edt/dja)