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Snipers to protect holiday traffic

Indonesian Observer - January 13, 1999

Bandung – West Java Police Chief Major General Chairuddin yesterday said his office would deploy sharpshooters along coastal roads to protect travelers during the post-Ramadhan festivities of Idul Fitri.

Dozens of snipers will assist hundreds of existing security forces dressed to save millions of motorists from possible attacks, looting and theft, he said.

The sharpshooters will be posted in areas deemed vulnerable to robberies and attacks on commuters, Chairuddin told reporters in the West Java capital of Bandung. "The deployment is of course in line with existing legal procedures and the need [for protection], so travelers can feel secure," he said.

Every year, millions of Indonesians spend the Lebaran holidays a week before and after the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan to celebrate Idul Fitri with families in their hometowns and villages. A huge exodus of people is expected to go home on the northern coastal Pantura highway that links Jakarta and East Java. Land Transport Director General Santo Budiono has said the police marksmen would patrol on motorcycles.

An estimated 17 million people are expected to visit their home villages in Indonesia during the holiday period. About 16 million will go by land, 673,000 by sea and 326,000 by air. Lebaran kicks off on January 19 and many travelers, especially those from Jakarta, began the exodus last weekend.

The military earlier warned that soldiers would crack down on criminals and rioters if they threatened the safety of others. Measures included orders to shoot looters on the spot. Riots and looting have broken out in many parts of the country in recent months, and political, ethnic and religious tensions have also led to violence.

Meanwhile in East Java, police yesterday caught red-handed six thieves who operated along Pantura highway in Tuban regency. "We have launched a balloon operation. In Tuban, we have arrested six persons who have committed six robberies. Material evidence we found includes textiles and tires," East Java Police Chief Major General Mochammad Dayat was quoted as saying by Antara in Surabaya.