Jakarta – The Indonesian military found a body believed to be the fourth of seven soldiers killed in an apparent ambush in the troubled province of Aceh as a search continued for two marine hostages, officials said Sunday.
The body of the soldier was the fourth found since mobs Tuesday dragged 18 troopers off buses passing though the Simpang Ulim district in East Aceh and killed seven of them. "Another body was found off the coast by fishermen. The body was caught in the fish net and is currently being transported to the hospital," an officer at the East Aceh police station told AFP.
Three other bodies were found in Arakundo river. Their bodies showed multiple slash wounds and bore marks suggesting they may have been hanged or trussed up. The remaining three soldiers were unaccounted for.
Meanwhile, the search intensified for two marines kidnapped in a separate incident Wednesday in the North Aceh district of Muara Dua. North Aceh deputy police chief Major Amrin Remico said 26 platoons of troops from the army, the marines and the police's mobile brigade unit, totalling some 780 men, were scouring the area. "We have yet to succeed in contacting the kidnappers. So the two hostages are still out there," Remico told AFP.
Remico had earlier said the two marines were presumed to be alive since other soldiers who managed to flee were not harmed. The two marines were among five soldiers captured by a crowd in Blang Panjang village of North Aceh.
Armed forces chief General Wiranto has blamed the "Free Aceh" Islamic separatist movement for the killings in Tuesday's attack. The group has been waging for decades a low-level war for a separate Islamic state.
"The same old groups who want Aceh's independence (were behind the killings)," Wiranto said, warning the violence could jeopardize a military withdrawal from the province.
"This was not the work of ... Aceh people who hope to see an end to the military operation zone," Wiranto added.
Remico said the military was planning to raid a village where one of the leaders of the Free Aceh separatist movement is suspected to be hiding, but did not have further details.
Regional military commander Major General Ismed Yuzairi said Thursday the military is hunting the leader of the Free Aceh movement Ahmad Kandang, whom he believed had "provoked people to do brutal activities in Aceh."
A resurgence of Free Aceh activity in the late 1980s prompted the military to declare Aceh a special zone, with troops from outside the province deployed to quash the rebel movement.
After the special military status was lifted following the fall of former president Suharto last year, fact-finding teams found mass graves containing hundreds of corpses of people allegedly slaughtered by the military.