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Cablegate: Five Ex-Gam Killed in Aceh Attack

VZCZCXYZ5260
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJA #0445/01 0640953
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040953Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8219
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0910
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2117
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 3368
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 2070
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS JAKARTA 000445

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
AIDAC

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MTS, DS/IP/EAP, DS/DSS, INR/EAP and INL
DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS AID
USAID FOR ANE/EAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PINS PREL MARR ECON ASEC SOCI ID
SUBJECT: Five ex-GAM killed in Aceh attack

1. (U) Summary. In the worst single incident of violence since the
signing of the Helsinki Peace MoU, at least 5 former GAM members
were killed on March 1 in an attack on a local office in Central
Aceh. The attack followed a series of clashes between former-GAM
members and supporters of a local gang with minor links to
ex-anti-separatist militia. Governor Irwandi has urged all parties
to exercise restraint, and GAM commanders have ordered their members
to remain calm and avoid "throwing gasoline on the fire." The
situation in central Aceh remains calm, but tense. End Summary.

KPA Office Attacked
-------------------
2. (U) Shortly after midnight on March 1, a mob attacked and burned
the KPA office in Sangoeh Ilang, Central Aceh, some 30 km from
Takengon. (Note: KPA is an organization created by GAM after the
Helsinki MoU to represent former GAM members. It is based on the old
GAM structure and hierarchy.) Several GAM members were killed in the
attack. By mid morning, false rumors spread that KPA members from
around the province were coming to Central Aceh to seek revenge, and
the police set up roadblocks to keep them out. In the days following
the attack the atmosphere in Central Aceh was quiet and tense. Shops
in some parts of the city, particularly around the bus station,
remained closed throughout the weekend.

How Many Victims?
-----------------
3. (U) There are conflicting reports of the number of people killed
in the attack. Provincial authorities cited by the press claim that
six people were killed. Meanwhile, Central Aceh Police Chief Agus
Kewadar told Consulate Medan that only five persons were killed,
four of whom were burned to death and a fifth who died of stab
wounds and was dumped in a well. KPA members disagree and insist
that the number is actually higher. One KPA member in Takengon told
the press that at least nine people were killed and several more
severely injured. KPA spokesman Ibrahim KBS in Banda Aceh told
Consulate Medan that he could only confirm 5 dead at present but he
expected the number to go up because several supporters in central
Aceh were not yet accounted for.

Government's Response
---------------------
4. (SBU) Governor Irwandi Yusuf and other provincial officials have
called on all parties to remain calm. Provincial Police Chief
Rismawan has promised that justice will be served and asked people
to wait for his men to conduct a complete investigation. So far, the
only provincial official known to travel to the area is former
Governor Azwar Abubakar from the Aceh Reintegration Agency who went
to Central Aceh to meet with victims and their families. In Jakarta,
staff from the Aceh Desk at the Ministry of Politics and Security
told Medan that the ministry would be holding meetings on Tuesday,
March 4 to discuss the situation.

Chronology
----------
5. (U) On February 29, after a series of skirmishes between former
GAM members (KPA) and a local gang (IPT) over control of the
Takengon city bus terminal, the police chiefs from both Central Aceh
district and its district capital, Takengon city, invited KPA and
IPT members to a meeting to discuss the situation. Before the
meeting started, a crowd of IPT supporters attacked the five KPA
representatives, beating one of them severely before the police were
able to get the situation under control. During the conflict, IPT
was closely affiliated with the Pemuda Pancasila youth organization
but lacked both weapons and significant political power. Some IPT
members were also involved with the anti-separatist militia PETA
(Pembela Tanah Air, Defenders of the Homeland).

6. (U) Upon learning of the attack on the five representatives,
local KPA sent two truckloads of supporters into the city. Before
additional clashes broke out, however, the regent and police chief
intervened and convinced both sides to participate in a dialogue.
The dialogue continued until after 10:00pm on February 29 and
resulted in an agreement to abstain from additional violence. The
attack on the KPA office occurred several hours later, shortly after
midnight.

KPA's Reaction
--------------
7. (SBU) Senior KPA officials insist that they are keeping their men
under control and that they are waiting for the police to conduct
their investigation. Top KPA commander Muzakir Manaf told consulate
Medan that GAM members would have flooded into Central Aceh but he
and other commanders had forbidden them from doing so to avoid
pouring "gasoline on the fire." Ibrahim KBS, KPA spokesman, added
that allowing KPA supporters to go to Takengon would have been a
fatal mistake, leading to an unpredictable cycle of violence which
could not be controlled. Both Muzakir and Ibrahim told Medan that
KPA will wait for the authorities to act. The organization is
holding an emergency meeting in Banda Aceh on Tuesday to discuss the
incident.

8. (U) In a statement circulated by Ibrahim, KPA leaders took a
harsher line. The statement said the attack in Central Aceh was a
provocation designed to elicit a strong response which could be used
to renew the conflict. They called upon the police to investigate
the incident thoroughly, warning that failure to do so could unleash
waves of retribution and chaos. Do not be surprised, the statement
warned ominously, if the government and the law ultimately fail to
act, that other parties resort to unlawful actions themselves.

9. (SBU) The police may find it politically difficult to meet KPA's
expectations. KPA clearly blames former PETA members for the attack
and expects the police to identify and punish the mastermind behind
the act. PETA and the former anti-separatist militias are still
powerful in the area (the regent of neighboring Nagan Raya district,
for example, was a former militia leader), however, and the police
may find it difficult to confront the organization head on. KPA
members have long claimed that the police throughout the province
refuse to crack down on criminals with ties to the former
anti-separatist militia because of their history of cooperation
during the conflict. Now, Ibrahim, the KPA spokesman, told Consulate
Medan, is the police's chance to prove they are impartial and fair.


Role of the Police
------------------
10. (SBU) Although they blame ex-militia for the attack, KPA leaders
imply strongly that elements within the police may have been
complicit. Specifically, KPA has pointed to several incidents where
they accuse the police of either failing to act or acting
improperly: at the initial reconciliation meeting when police failed
to prevent KPA members from being assaulted, at the second
reconciliation meeting when police ordered KPA to send its
supporters out of the city while allowing hundreds of IPT supporters
to gather, and during the attack itself. Other observers seem to
share that view as well. In the words of Stephen Almsteier, the
Safety and Security Coordinator for the Aceh Reconstruction and
Rehabilitation Agency, "there would be no need to call for police
action now if the armed police at both incidents had taken some sort
of action at the time."

11. (SBU) Despite evidence to the contrary, authorities are labeling
the attack as a simple criminal incident unrelated to other matters
and strenuously resist linking the attack to former militia members.
District Police Chief Agus Budi Kawedar told Consulate Medan that
"there is no connection at all" between the attack on the KPA office
and the incidents at the bus terminal. That situation, he said, "has
been fully resolved."

12. (SBU) Kawedar also disagrees that the police could have done
more to prevent the attack. The village where the attack occurred is
about 1.5 hours driving from Takengon, he said, and the location
only has a small police post with seven personnel. He added that
only three police were on duty at the time of the incident on March
1, too few to stand against such a large mob. Kawedar emphasized
that his men are conducting a thorough investigation and that they
have already located 12 witnesses, including one whose identity has
not yet been disclosed. He hopes the motive for the incident can be
announced in the next 2 or 3 days.

Impact on the Peace Process
---------------------------
13. (SBU) Unless this incident is successfully resolved, it could
further erode former combatants' confidence in the police and give
them a specific grievance against them. It could also lead ex-GAM in
certain areas to seek weapons for self-defense. Gen. Amiruddin, the
Ministry of Peace and Security's senior representative in Aceh, told
Consulate Medan that he believes the greatest risk right now is that
KPA members will carry out revenge attacks, triggering a cycle of
retribution which will be hard to stop. His greatest priority, he
said, was to support the police and "boost their credibility" so
that KPA members did not feel obligated to take matters into their
own hands. At the same time, he said, he is communicating quietly
with senior KPA representatives to keep them on board with the
process.

14. (SBU) Some observers are linking this incident with recent
initiatives to divide the province. Governor Irwandi Yusuf
acknowledged those concerns to the press and cited them as a key
reason for the police to conduct a thorough investigation. Numerous
KPA/GAM leaders are on record stating that dividing the province
would be a grave violation of the Helsinki MoU and that to do so
would jeopardize the peace process. Hume

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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