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53 dead in Aceh

Mimbar - February 5, 1999

Lhokseumawe – Thousands of people coming from all parts of East Aceh made their way Thursday to Arakundo bridge to search the river for bodies of relatives missing following a clash between thousands of people and the security forces on Wednesday, 3 February.

They pulled out four bodies who were identified as Irwansyah, 22, from Kapai Baro village Idi Cut, Hasbi Saleh, 35, Seuneubok Tuha, Jallani Mahmud 22, and Irwan bin Matsyah, 25, both from the village of Jambo Bale Julok.

According to provisional findings of investigations conducted by an NGO on Thursday, the number of casualties in Wednesday's incident are as follows: 53 dead, 97 missing and 150 wounded. These figures were given to Mimbar by Mohd Yacob Hamzah, chair of the Iskandar Muda Legal Aid Institute, last night.

Yacob said that a number of eye witnesses had seen the clashes that took place late at night on Wednesday. They saw a truckload full of bodies of people who had been shot dead being driven to Arakundo bridge from where they were thrown into the river. Blood stains were still evident on the bridge yesterday. The Legal Aid Institute has so far identified ten more people who were killed. [The names and places of origin are given in the article.]

As reported earlier, a crowd of about 3,000 people coming from all parts of East Aceh attended a religious rally (rapat akbar) in Matang Ulim Village, Idi Cut, at which a number of speeches were made. After the meeting dispersed, there was a clash between them and the security forces.

The local government coordinating body, Muspika, had prohibited the meeting which was to be attended by thousands of people. The speakers at the meeting condemned the armed forces and shouted, 'Long Live Aceh Merdeka'.

After the meeting dispersed, the crowds left and started to make their way home. As one vehicle full of people passed the Idi Cut Koramil (local military command), stones were thrown at it by unidentified people, triggering the clash between the crowds and the security forces.

Besides the large number of casualties, six vehicles which had been used to take the people from the meeting were seriously damaged by firing. Fifty-one people who are suspected of starting the incident have been taken into custody, and the road communication between Medan and Lhokseumawe was cut for a number of hours.

In view of all the bloodshed in Aceh during the past few months, the chair of the Iskandar Muda Legal Aid Institute has called on the United Nations to dispatch an investigation team to monitor the human rights situation in the province of Aceh.