Terrorist Battle Drags On in Aceh, Police Showing Wear

Lamkabeu, TAG. The hunt for members of an unidentified terror group in Aceh showed no signs of abating on Friday, as residents and the police began counting the cost of the two-week-long operation.

On Friday, Aceh Police deployed more officers to sweep the Lamkabeu area, approximately 56 kilometers from the capital, Banda Aceh, after a late-night gun battle left a police officer dead and at least 10 others wounded.

Some 13 trucks carrying armed personnel from the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) and bomb squad entered the rugged area in Aceh Besar district, including reinforcements sent from the Brimob headquarters in Kelapa Dua, just outside Jakarta. 

The officers immediately erected makeshift stations just inside the courtyard of Lamkabeu Mosque and the town's Meunasah Tunong market before being deployed to remote jungles surrounding the town. Police believe around 20 armed terrorists have been hiding in the area.

So far, 14 suspects have been arrested and one killed as the elite police antiterror squad Densus 88 has pursued the group. But the operation, which began following the arrest of four suspects on Feb. 22, have begun taking its toll on both the residents and police officers.

Several sources who declined to be named said that Brimob officers who had previously been patrolling the area have been called back to base. They said this was to ensure that fit officers would continuously join the pursuit, but the returning officers looked tired and rattled, especially after the exchange of gunfire with the fugitive group on Thursday night. 

Dr Taufik Mahdi, director of Zainoel Abidin public hospital in Banda Aceh, said that some of the 10 injured officers were in grim condition.
As of Friday afternoon, at least six officers were sent home while the others were still in intensive care. 

One officer had to undergo an operation to remove a projectile that was lodged just under his armpit. Taufik however said that his condition had gradually improved. 

First Brig. Boas Woysiri, however, was not so lucky. The 35-year-old bomb and tactical specialist from Brimob Headquarters in Depok is missing and believed dead following the bloody gun battle on Thursday.

“He has been missing since yesterday and we are searching for him,” Gen. Tito Karnavian, head of Densus 88, told The Jakarta Globe on Friday.

Woysiri was trained in the United States in antiterror tactics and had just returned from Sudan as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there.

A National Police source told the Jakarta Globe, “Woysiri, a Papuan, is missing with his complete kit of MP5 rifle, glock pistol, grenades and other equipment. He is likely dead and will never again see his wife, who is pregnant with his third son.”

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, laid the blame for the disappearance with the antiterror intelligence unit.

“There is no information about how big this terrorist group is, and when Woysiri and his colleagues tried to raid them in Seulimum, the group started shooting from all sides. Their numbers are unknown,” he said.

With tensions in the area intensifying, residents have begun taking extreme caution. Normal activity was virtually stopped on Thursday as residents were too afraid to leave their homes.

Teuku Safruddin, 65, a local resident, said he had decided to leave his store closed until the terrorists were apprehended.
“I am worried about another shooting like Wednesday and Thursday. It’s been two days since my family and I were forced to sleep on the floor, fearing more stray bullets,” he said. 

Teuku added that police had forbidden people to go to their rice fields in a bid to avoid further civilian casualties. Two civilians have already died in the crossfire.

As of late Friday, further shooting had been averted as police kept up pressure on the armed terror group. Police also deployed a helicopter to patrol the mountain side. 

Officers in the field refused to comment to journalists, who were told to stay at least three kilometers from the area. Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, who was at the scene, also refused to comment.

But a statement from a Brimob officer, who was recently pulled out of the conflict zone, shows the scale of the threat they were facing. He said that they encountered open terrain, making it impossible to advance amid the shooting.

The terrorists “are highly trained and have access to sophisticated weaponry. It is possible that they also have [rocket propelled grenades],” the officer told the Jakarta Globe on condition of anonymity. “At yesterday’s battle, bullets flew everywhere. Thank God I wasn’t hit. They were even aiming at the helicopter.”[]
Terrorist Battle Drags On in Aceh, Police Showing Wear Terrorist Battle Drags On in Aceh, Police Showing Wear Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on March 07, 2010 Rating: 5

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