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NU may bring ninja killings before ICJ

Jakarta Post - December 1, 1998

Jakarta – The country's largest Moslem organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) may bring the case of the ninja killings which have taken place across Java over the past few months to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Antara reported on Monday.

Choirul Anam of the East Java NU chapter said President B.J. Habibie's government has failed to show a serious effort to solve the killings before the Nov. 30 deadline set by NU. Many of the victims were NU members. NU has also raised the possibility that its own members are involved in the killings, given that the areas where the murders occurred in East Java are NU bases. "We'll report all results of our investigation to NU headquarters (PBNU in Jakarta), so it will be the headquarters that will submit the results to the ICJ," said Anam, who heads the team investigating the killings, in Surabaya.

He said 253 people have been killed by well-trained assassins clad in black ninja outfits. The killings occurred in the East Java towns of Banyuwangi, Jember, Situbondo, Bondowoso, Sampang, Pamekasan and Pasuruan. The agency did not say whether the death toll included the dozens killed by mobs because they were thought to be "ninjas".

Anam dismissed suggestions that the killings are purely criminal. "How come there were so many casualties in three months within widely scattered areas, and most victims were NU members," he said.

Anam, who also heads the East Java-chapter of NU's People's Awakening Party (PKB), said the organized killings initially targeted 500 people. He said the investigating team's findings were partly based on recorded testimony from individuals questioned by NU who ordered the killings and trained the killers.

Anam revealed that the weapons used in the killings were special daggers inscribed with the likeness of a dragon. He also discussed a controversial radio message sent out by Banyuwangi Regent Turjono Purnomo Sidik on a list of 500 "black magic practitioners" that the regent said needed protection from vigilantes. Anam said the message was sent in February, not in September as claimed by the regent. "So the list of black magic practitioners and Koran teachers became the operational targets of the perpetrators," he said.

The "scenario" of the assassinations, according to Anam, had been planned five months before the killings peaked between August through September. Seventy percent of the casualties were NU members, he said, warning the government that it would leave a "time bomb" if it did not solve the matter.

Separately, in Jakarta, PBNU Secretary-General Ahmad Bagdja said the headquarters would announce its stance on the matter after a meeting with NU scholars from across Java on Dec. 8 through Dec. 10 in Jakarta. "We'll evaluate the seriousness of the state apparatus in handling this issue," he said.

Bagdja charged that the government's present efforts, such as dragging several suspected killers into court, do not indicate a serious effort to get to the root of the problem. Bagda also warned that the violence could be repeated if left unsettled. He cited several instances of what he said were repetitions of violence in Jakarta, such as the fatal shootings at Semanggi of protesting students by the Army and police on Nov. 13 and the Ketapang riots that claimed 14 lives on Nov. 22.

Bagdja, however, did not say whether the incidents were related. Some parties have said that a power struggle among political elites in Jakarta might be behind the massacres.

He said that if the killings were intended to pit members of society against each other, or to prevent people from supporting NU's popular political party – the PKB – then "they have succeeded".

He added that people have become easily suspicious of strangers, and that people have also removed PKB stickers from their houses. "We truly want the people behind these killings revealed," he said.