Rights Activist Warns of Arms Smuggling in Aceh

Banda Aceh, TAG - Aceh is fast becoming a key destination for firearms smuggled into and around the country, a human rights activist said on Tuesday.

Zulfikar Muhammad, from the Aceh Human Rights Coalition, said the province’s role in the illegal gun trade over the past year has become more apparent following a surge in armed crimes there last year.
“From our monitoring throughout 2010, we saw lots of cases of armed crimes,” he said.
“What was particularly shocking was the discovery last February of the heavily armed terrorist training camp right here in Aceh.”
The Aceh group was also linked to a series of deadly armed robberies — ostensibly carried out to secure funds for the camp’s operations — and to an attack on a police station.
The camp and its members were the subject of a series of raids conducted by the police across the nation that left several suspected terrorists dead and many more arrested.
Zulfikar said the raids also netted at least 74 firearms, most of them assault rifles such as AK-47s, M-16s and military-issued Pindad SS1s.
Besides the terrorist camp, Zulfikar said another group with a considerable stash of firearms was the former separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM), now disbanded.
He said the possibility was high that former guerrillas still possessed firearms because they kept coming forward to hand in their weapons to the police following the 2005 peace deal that ended the secessionist movement.
“Given these groups and the spate of armed robberies across the province last year, there can be no doubt that the proliferation of illegal firearms in Aceh is staggering,” Zulfikar said.
“The ease with which weapons enter the province outpaces the police’s ability to recover them.”
He said he suspected most of the weapons came in by sea, through the Malacca Strait.
“It’s possible that those supplying the weapons are armed service personnel, much as they did during the time of the separatist struggle,” he said.
Zulfikar urged the police to kick off an awareness campaign to get people to hand in any weapons they may possess and to report those suspected of hiding a weapon.
“The public must be encouraged to report illegal weapons possession, and the police must ensure that any future weapon raids don’t result in civilian casualties,” he said.
He added there also needs for better security in the province’s coastline to scupper attempts of smuggling firearms from abroad.
However, the Aceh Police have denied there is an influx of firearms into the province, arguing that all the weapons used in last year’s armed crimes came from the GAM stock that are circulating in the community.
“Our raids and sea patrols have never uncovered any indication that these weapons might have been smuggled in from abroad,” Sr. Comr. Farid Ahmad Saleh, a police spokesman, said.
He said the maritime patrols included those carried out by the water police as well as joint patrols with Malaysian authorities.
“As for the guns recovered from the terrorists, those clearly came from Java,” Farid added.
He said his office would nonetheless keep working to solve the spate of armed crimes and trace the origins of the guns.[]
Rights Activist Warns of Arms Smuggling in Aceh Rights Activist Warns of Arms Smuggling in Aceh Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on January 05, 2011 Rating: 5

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