Indonesia police shoot, beat civilians in Aceh province

Indonesian police beat and shot unarmed civilians in strife-torn Aceh province as the country prepared to celebrate its 62nd independence day, wounding 12 people including two critically, a former separatist military commander said Thursday.

Indonesia police shoot, beat civilians in Aceh province
Indonesian police beat and shot unarmed civilians in strife-torn Aceh province as the country prepared to celebrate its 62nd independence day, wounding 12 people including two critically, a former separatist military commander said Thursday.

"They accused us of stealing (Indonesian) flags, then they suddenly beat us and shot some people who ran," Tengku Zainal, former field commander of the now-defunct Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Aceh's Bireun district told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Hundreds of flags installed ahead of Friday's national holiday went missing in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, Lhokseumawe, and other towns and villages, prompting warnings from angry security officials that thieves would be shot on site.

"We don't steal flags; I even encouraged people to hang one if they want too," Tengku Zainal said, adding that only one of the victims of the alleged attack was an ex-rebel.

An Aceh provincial police spokesman told the Jakarta-based Elshinta radio station that they were investigating the alleged attack by uniformed policemen.

Six people were being treatment in a local hospital in Bireun, while two seriously wounded were transported to a bigger hospital in the province capital of Banda Aceh.

Aceh, an oil-and-gas-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra Island, was witness to a brutal 29-year conflict between the Indonesian military and GAM guerrillas that killed as many as 20,000 people, mostly civilians.

The sides signed a peace agreement in August 2005, just months after the 2004 Asian Tsunami killed 177,000 people in Aceh alone.

The peace has held, with GAM disarming in exchange for amnesty and forming a political movement to contest local elections. In the first such ballot in December 2006, former rebel member Irwandi Yusuf became the province's first-ever directly elected governor.

However, tensions and mistrust between Indonesian nationalists and former GAM members remains strong. The province has been the scene of at least four unexplained grenade attacks on the homes of ex-GAM officials as well as government and police offices, stoking fears an unknown group is trying to sabotage the peace because former rebels are now in office.

In years past, Indonesian soldiers and police would order residents at gunpoint to purchase and hang the red-and-white Indonesian flag on their homes, cars and motorcycles in the run-up to the August 17 anniversary of independence from Dutch colonial rule.

DPA
Last Mod: 16 Ağustos 2007, 16:25
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