APSN Banner

East Java killings act as political terror

Jakarta Post - December 13, 1998

Jakarta – In the face of repeated denials by the local government and military, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) announced on Saturday its conviction that political maneuvering was behind a recent killing spree in Banyuwangi, East Java, and surrounding areas.

Backing the findings of its East Java chapter's investigation into the murders of Moslem clerics and alleged witchcraft practitioners, NU headquarters here said the killings were acts of "political terror" and not pure crimes.

It was a terror spree launched to stir up unrest within society, the organization said in a statement following a meeting on Dec. 11 to Dec. 12 of its Syuriah (lawmaking body) and Tanfidziyah (executive body) members.

"The (NU) team's finding proved there had been organized movements and it had either directly or indirectly indicated the involvement-of government and military members," the organization said as quoted by Antara.

The statement was signed by the Syuriah's chairman Ilyas Ruchiyat and its deputy chairman Said Aqiel Siradj, as well as the Tanfidziyah's deputy chairman Mustafa Zuhad and its secretary-general Ahmad Bagdja.

The East Java fact-finding team said that as many as 253 people were killed by welltrained assassins clad in black ninja outfits. Homicides occurred in the East Java towns of Banyuwangi, Jember, Situbondo, Bondowoso, Sampang, Pamekasan and Pasuruan. It said most of those killed were NU members.

It said the organized killings initially targeted 500 people, based on a controversial list of 500 "black magic practitioners" sent out through radio messages by Banyuwangi Regent Turjono Purnomo Sidik in February. The regent said those named needed protection from vigilantes. However, the messages were relayed in February, not in September as claimed by the regent.


The "scenario" of the assassinations, the fact-finding team had said. had been planned five months before the killings peaked from August through September.

In an evident show of discontent at the government's handling of the killings, the NU chapter threatened to bring the case before the International Court of Justice. In its response earlier last week the Armed Forces (ABRI) said it had dispatched a joint ABRI and NU team to further investigate the case. In its statement, NU said it appreciated ABRI's move.

Through the statement, NU also called on all its youth wings, including its multipurpose task-force unit Banser and the Pagar Nusa martial arts unit to cooperate with local administrations across the country in maintaining security.

In a related development on Sunday, thousands of members of the NU youth wings from across East and Central Java and Madura gathered at the Simpang Lima downtown shopping center in Semarang Central Java, to urge the government to unveil the culprits in the Banyuwangi killings.

In the peaceful gathering attended by Governor Mardiyanto and Central Java Military Chief Maj. Gen. Tyasno Sudarto, they also pledged their commitment to national unity and called on political groups to stay away from "violent and criminal politicking".