Skip to comments.Journalists Told To Keep Quiet On Aceh (Indonesia) Skirmish! (R.O.P. Update!)
Posted on 01/07/2005 10:08:13 AM PST by underwiredsupport
Journalists told to keep quiet on Aceh skirmish
January 07, 2005
AUSTRALIAN journalists who witnessed a confrontation between Indonesian soldiers and alleged separatists in tsunami-ravaged Sumatra yesterday were ordered to leave the area and warned not to report on the incident.
The clash occurred just 40km from the provincial capital Banda Aceh, the centre of the relief operation spearheaded by US and Australian forces in Aceh, where some 100,000 people died from the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunamis.
After being the apparent target of rebel snipers, government soldiers fired into the air and roughed up Indonesians they suspected were Free Aceh Movement (GAM) sympathisers.
The incident prompted special forces (Kopassus) soldiers to confront The Australian's representatives in the area.
"Your duties here are to observe the disaster, not the conflict between TNI (the Indonesian army) and GAM," a Kopassus commander told The Australian's journalist and photographer before ordering them to leave.
The international relief effort and the arrival of foreign journalists have presented the Indonesian military with a dilemma - how to maintain military operations against the rebels while not attracting international attention to the 28-year-old conflict.
In the absence of a ceasefire, Indonesian military leaders have been anxious to avoid giving the impression that their commitment to contain the rebels was hampering their emergency relief role.
The military says yesterday's skirmish began when rebels on a fishing boat fired at tsunami victims and soldiers at Lhoknga, on Aceh's devastated west coast.
No one was injured in the incident, near a destroyed bridge about 40km southwest of Banda Aceh, said Sergeant Muhammad Guntur.
The two gunshots rang out when a TNI patrol was wrapping a dead soldier in black plastic.
The soldiers formed quickly into battle lines and ran across the dunes, a lieutenant calling urgently for backup.
The Australian was in what was once a GAM stronghold and which for the past two years has been a hotspot in the Indonesian Government's fight against the rebels.
Within minutes, a truck carrying Kopassus soldiers arrived.
Locals waiting to head south huddled with downcast eyes. Three men were hauled from the crowd, pushed into lotus positions and interrogated. Then another trio was summonsed.
As one local tried to ride off on a motorbike, a Kopassus soldier shouted angrily and fired two shots in the air. He walked up to the motorbike rider and hit him twice across the face, then threatened him with the butt of his M-16.
The rider was hauled away and accused of being a GAM sympathiser who had tried to flee. We were told to leave and again reminded of constraints on reporting in Aceh.
For the past week, Lhoknga had been a staging point for refugees from the remainder of the west coast who had fled their villages, or those game enough to walk the other way along the ruined road, seeking out relatives. All morning, troops wearing combat kit had been stopping those heading south, accusing them of forming new supply lines for rebels in the hills.
This was the last TNI station between Banda Aceh and the great unknown. The only other soldiers along the coastline to Sumatra are involved in relief work.
The checkpoint officers had been rigorous, to the point of pedantry. One local was asked why he was carrying five bananas on his 160km journey. He was allowed to leave after a five-minute grilling.
The official line from Jakarta has been that GAM, or the Free Aceh Movement, which has fought a decades-long guerilla campaign to win self-rule, is all but a spent force. The army believes it is now in a mopping-up phase.
But during yesterday's alert a young soldier said his platoon had been involved in two contacts with rebels since the tsunami hit.
A spokesman for the Indonesian embassy in Canberra said the TNI had a role to maintain security, and this case might have been a simple example of that.
"The role of the TNI is to assist in the humanitarian role but, because of the limited police, the TNI has a role in maintaining the rule of law in Aceh. At these times there's an opportunity for the insurgents to exploit the situation. The TNI is trying to stop that."
Everyone knew this was coming as soon as the muslim terrorists arrived; just a matter of days until they start firing upon the US, Brits and Aussies.
Earlier thread w/ my comments...
Hate to say it but this is why I would never donate money to help out the Tsunami victims.
Fascinating. Anyone want to take bets on how much coverage this story will receive?
Banda Aceh has been a major islamic terrorist hot-spot. Amazing that it bore the main brunt of the earthquake and tsunami, eh?
IMO we should just send goods; water, food, clothing, building supplies, purchased in America. It is insanity to send money to these idiots.
It is insanity to send money to these idiots.
INDONESIA has responded to requests from Australia and promised to boost security amid fears of aid workers that the world's humanitarian mission may be caught in the crossfire of the separatist struggle.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday there would be growing concerns over safety in the coming months as Australians helped rebuild the devastated western Sumatran coast.
Fuelling the volatility of the region, fundamental Islamic activists are also flooding into the region in a bid to guard against what they regard as dangerous Western influences.
As relief efforts continued yesterday, the death toll in Indonesia from the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunamis jumped by almost 20,000 to 113,306, taking the total number of dead across the region to more than 165,000.
Australian aid workers in Aceh told The Australian yesterday that Indonesian soldiers had warned they could not guarantee security outside Banda Aceh. Workers were being urged to travel in large convoys that were clearly marked for safety.
There were also unconfirmed reports of several cars belonging to a non-government organisation being held up by a firefight involving TNI soldiers and rebels.
Indonesian sources say the chief concerns for the safety of aid workers and unarmed defence personnel are Free Aceh Movement (GAM) separatists looking for publicity, criminal gangs attached to GAM, and Islamic fundamentalists concerned about the influx of Westerners.
One hardline Islamic group took aim yesterday at an Australian Catholic charity, Father Chris Riley's Youth off the Streets, planning to set up an orphanage in tsunami-ravaged Aceh, warning it not to try to convert Muslim children.
Chief of the radical Islamic Defenders Front, Hilmy Bakar Almascaty, warned the group to stick purely to humanitarian work in Aceh the only Indonesian province to have fully implemented Muslim sharia law.
Mr Downer said it was "political suicide" for Islamist militants to attack now, but there would be concerns for Australians as the program dragged on.
"The assessments of our agencies is that it is very unlikely that Islamists groups would commit acts of violence against people providing humanitarian aid simply because it would be an act which would be enormously unpopular in Indonesia, would set their cause back a very long way, even if it was some sort of an attack on foreigners," he said.
"In terms of Islamist groups it is quite unlikely in the short term, I'm not talking about the medium term over the five years of this program, that is something we'll have to assess."
Mr Downer said Muslim extremists would not attack aid workers but Australians could potentially become victims if they get caught in the line of fire between GAM and TNI soldiers.
"I don't have any evidence that these people are going to attack Australians in Aceh, I think it would be unlikely, but the insurgents, GAM, might get into some kind of a military exchange with TNI and it's conceivable Australians could end up in the crossfire there."
AusAid Indonesia country director Robin Davies said while security concerns remained, many reports of security issues were proving false.
"Our people are unarmed and they agree to enter Aceh on that basis. Everyone needs to rely on the Indonesians and the TNI to provide protection," he said.
Michel Brugiere, director of Medecins du Monde, or Doctors of the World, said that "given the context of the area where we are operating, we have very strict security measures in place". He said: "Our teams are told that they should not fly in American army helicopters, since we're concerned that they could be a particular target."
TNI was reportedly intensifying its capacity in Aceh.
The Indonesian embassy said yesterday the Government was determined to ensure the safety of aid workers in the region and this had been the main role of the army since the disaster hit. It said TNI was not capitalising on the ongoing chaos to eliminate the separatist movement.
Almost 1000 Australian troops are expected to be in Aceh from next week.
Transport ship HMAS Kanimbla headed to Indonesia from Darwin yesterday afternoon, carrying 246 troops plus 150 army engineers.
Just my humble opinion.
MILITANT Islamic groups are rushing to join the relief effort in Aceh but deny they have any plans for holy war in the devastated Indonesian province - despite at least two of them bearing the provocative word mujaheddin in their names.
The Islamic groups are based in Java, the heartland of regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah, and all have links to Islamist-focused communal violence in eastern Indonesia.
One, Laskar Mujahidin, has posted an English sign at its camp in Banda Aceh that reads "Islamic Law Enforcement".
It has about 60 members distributing aid in Aceh, but claims to have at least 50 branches across Indonesia.
Laskar Mujahidin denies having any connection with the previously active and similarly named militant group Laskar Jihad, which was formed to help wage war in the largely Christian areas of Muluku, eastern Indonesia.
However, one member quizzed yesterday admitted that many of his colleagues had fought in Muluku.
Analysts said Islamic terrorists known to operate in Indonesia would be foolish to try to attack anyone helping the hundreds of thousands of tsunami victims, because it could result in aid groups pulling out, and sour the militants' chances of building popular support.
They warned, however, that radical groups helping the relief effort would also try to stoke anti-Western sentiment - and wait for an opportunity to attack if public support for outside help waned.
Abu Aisha, a senior member of another group, Majelis Mujahidin, yesterday explained that secularism and moral decline in Aceh were almost complete and it was the responsibility of Islamic groups to re-establish the Muslim faith in the place where the religion of Mohammed first entered Indonesia.
Mr Aisha denied, however, that Majelis Mujahidin was taking advantage of the traumatic post-tsunami situation to proselytise, and said it was devout Muslims, because of their strong faith, who were best prepared for the task of dealing with Aceh's thousands of dead bodies - not Australians and the others who said they had come to help.
"We from Majelis Mujahidin, every time we meet an Acehnese person, we tell them three things," he said. "Firstly that the tsunami is a test from God. Secondly, that it's a warning. Thirdly, that it's a punishment.
"The first of those is for those people who are already pious. The second is for those who have forgotten the way of God and need to be reminded. The third is for those who are already on the wrong path."
He said it was important to re-establish Syariah, or Islamic, law in Aceh but groups such as Majelis Mujahidin would have no problem helping Christians if needs be.
"You must understand that the involvement in Ambon doesn't mean we find the enemy everywhere we go. If there is a Christian who needs help, we will help them, even though our mission is to show the true Muslim path.
"Right now the only thing that's important is to help the Acehnese. It's already 12 days since the crisis began, and what has been done? Very little. There are still lots of corpses everywhere - especially if you compare Aceh to other places, like India or Thailand."
Pressed on the presence of a T-shirt showing terrorist leader Osama bin Laden hanging on a makeshift washing line belonging to the group, one of Mr Aisha's colleagues laughed uproariously.
"So what?" he said. "We're all Muslims, that's all. You can buy that shirt in any market you go to. Get one for yourself."
I'd agree with that, OF, in a heartbeat. It'll be interesting to see what they actually do. But I think we both already know the answer to that, don't we?
"Founding Philosophy: The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) seeks to establish an independent Islamic kingdom in the province of Aceh, located on the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra."
What's the over/under on beheadings during the next three months?
I'm not a big fan of Michael Savage, but I'm starting to agree with him that all this money is going to be ripped off by the Islamfascists. My God, not even their Islamic brothers swimming in petro-dollars are bothering to send more than a few million dollars worth of aid.
It's too bad. I feel sorry for the children and the innocent men and women who got caught up in this, but sending the UN in to monitor and manage monetary aid is the height of absurdity and arrogance given the oil-for-food scandal.
I did, through the salvation Army, and I am beginning to regret it.
I donated for tsunami relief via a Christian charity that also uses missionaries.
Why do you "hate to say it"? You owe them nothing, and the government of Indonesia can easily handle the financing of this crisis. TsunamiGate is the largest shakedown in history, and it is heartbreaking to see American schoolchildren collecting coins which will only go to corrupt governments, wealthy tourist interests (much of which preys on children as sex slaves), and Muslim extremists. DO NOt GIVE A DIMe TO ANY CHARITY for "Tsunami victims". It is a huge sham.
Right...some "seperatists", firing at the tsunami victims.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.