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Cablegate: French National Kidnapped in North Aceh

VZCZCXRO2182
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #1828/01 2700709
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 260709Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0211
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1128
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0931
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 3099
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 3437
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 2089
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001828

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 PREL ASEC CASC SOCI ID
SUBJECT: FRENCH NATIONAL KIDNAPPED IN NORTH ACEH

1. (SBU) Summary. A French national consultant for the World Bank
and his Indonesian driver were kidnapped and held by a group calling
themselves Sword Force in the Sawang subdistrict of North Aceh
Regency on the early afternoon of September 23. After repeated
threats to their lives at sword point, and having the French
national's ATM card drained, both victims were eventually released
on the evening of September 23 near the North Aceh city of Bireun.
This represents the most serious security incident involving foreign
nationals working for international organizations in Aceh since the
beginning of post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in 2005. End
Summary.

Event Chronology
----------------

(Note: the account in paras 2-4 below is a compilation of Morell's
own recounting and initial verification of details conducted by Aceh
security sources. End Note)

2. (SBU) At 1:00PM local time on September 23 World Bank senior
consultant Adrian Morell responsible for the regular Aceh Conflict
Monitoring Updates published by the group traveled to Sawang in
order to meet with the 'Sword Force' group that had previously
threatened World Bank local staff conducting a routine
multi-stakeholder review of World Bank programs in Aceh. Shortly
after the start of the meeting 5 men arrived and, joining the
original group, threatened Morell and his driver at sword point,
tied them up, and blindfolded them before driving them in their
World Bank vehicle into the jungle. No firearms were used or in
evidence at any time during the kidnapping.

3. (SBU) The group of 10 men who had taken Morell and his driver
hostage repeatedly threatened to behead them and stated a list of
grievances against the World Bank and organizations involved in the
Aceh peace process including NGO InterPeace, as well as mentioning
their desire to kidnap a Spanish International Commission of the Red
Cross (ICRC) staff member in the future. They initially demanded 5
billion Rupiah (USD 540,000) from Morell as ransom from the World
Bank and when he explained that the World Bank would not ransom him
they took his ATM card and went to nearby Lhoksumawe where they
drained 3,000 dollars cash from his bank account and transferred
additional funds to other local accounts of their associates.

4. (SBU) According to Morell, he was finally able to convince the
remaining kidnappers to release him after explaining the gravity of
the situation and likely government reaction to his continued
absence. The group holding him in the jungle drove him and his
driver to Bireun city in North Aceh by motorbike, where he was
released at 10:30PM on September 23. He and his driver took a
public bus back to Banda Aceh that night and reported the case to
the police in Banda Aceh the next day. The vehicle remains missing
and the assailants are still at large.

Reaction
--------
5. (SBU) The U.S. Mission in Indonesia is issuing a warden message
to all Americans urging them to avoid the Sawang subdistrict and
coordinate any planned travel in the surrounding area with local
authorities. According to BRR (Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and
Reconstruction Agency (BRR) Safety Team Advisor Stephen Almsteier,
the World Bank has suspended all internal Aceh travel and the United
Nations has stopped all travel outside the capital in Banda Aceh.
The international NGO community in Aceh clearly views this event as
a serious impediment to their operations and freedom of movement in
Aceh. The BRR Safety Team is counseling less drastic measures and
has advised NGOs to avoid the Sawang subdistrict and drive straight
through on main roads during daylight hours if traveling in the area
is necessary. Other local NGOs contacted by USAID's Aceh
Reconstruction Office on September 26 are pursuing a "lay low"
attitude but have not issued the same type of wide-ranging travel
restrictions to their staff as the World Bank and UN.

6. (SBU) In a conversation with Consulate Medan on September 26 the
local Indonesian military commander responsible for Sawang, Colonel
Eko, indicated to Medan staff that the group is currently under
surveillance but that since this has been deemed a criminal manner

JAKARTA 00001828 002 OF 002


the police will take the lead in the investigation. He added that
the military has confirmed that the Sword Force does not apparently
have any firearms in their possession. Eko also confirmed that the
military and law enforcement forces in place in North Aceh see this
incident as crossing an unacceptable line and police are reviewing
ATM camera footage and investigating the case.

Background on 'Sword Force'
--------------------------

7. (SBU) The "Badruddin Group", now calling themselves "Sword
Force", was based on the former Aceh Freedom Movement (GAM) Muslim
cleric (Imam) in Sawang named Badruddin, a young religious leader
sympathetic to GAM who became the Imam for the GAM base camp in
Sawang in 2001. Due to a host of local grievances he and his group
refused to recognize the peace agreement and Helsinkin MoU in 2005
and eventually fell out with GAM. Badruddin's daughter was killed
during an attack on their home in June of 2007 by unknown
assailants. Badruddin and his wife were attacked again in front of
their home in December of 2007 by a group of masked men and both
killed on the scene.

8. (SBU) Local media reports from August 15 reported a number of
green flags with a star and crescent symbol, with two swords and
Arabic script with the words 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great) were put
up in Sawang district by Sword Force and later taken down by police
on August 9. Young people interviewed by the media in Aceh as part
of the story, who claimed to be followers of Badruddin, are now
grouping themselves into Sword Force and said they would continue
their agitation.

9. (SBU) Neither Badruddin nor his men received the reintegration
payments other ex-GAM received. Prior to his death last year,
Badruddin was implicated in several high-profile property crimes
including against INGOs. Badruddin's group reportedly uses the fact
that they didn't get the reintegration cash as an excuse to take
what they want. The targeting of the World Bank during this
kidnapping may have been begun as a plan to extort money from the
INGO.

HUME

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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