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Police identify GAM link in attack against Aceh official

Jakarta Globe - October 16, 2012

Nurdin Hasan & Farouk Arnaz, Banda Aceh – Two men believed to have been behind a grenade attack on the home of the Bireuen district head in Aceh last month have been arrested with a large cache of weapons, police said on Monday.

Sr. Comr. Gustav Leo, the Aceh Police spokesman, told the Jakarta Globe that the men were arrested in Kubu village in Bireuen during the early hours of Sunday following an intensive investigation into the Sept. 20 attack on the home of Ruslan M. Daud, the district head.

He said police seized 15 firearms from the suspects, including a grenade launcher, three AK-56 assault rifles and 11 M-16 assault rifles. Police also recovered four grenades and 64 ammunition magazines for the assault rifles.

The National Police confirmed the arrest and identified one of the suspects as a former combatant with the now-disbanded Free Aceh Movement (GAM), a separatist organization.

"The firearms that we seized from the suspects were found wrapped in plastic and buried in the ground," Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar, the National Police spokesman, said in Jakarta.

"These are the people that we believe fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the home of the Bireuen district head in Cot Gapu village last month."

He added that the weapons were believed to be leftovers from the GAM's three-decade-long guerrilla insurgency, which ended with a peace deal in 2005. Senior GAM officers later went on to establish the Aceh Party.

Though police only identified the suspects by their initials – H.A. and R. – neighbors and local media named them as Hasdi Amir and Ramli, saying the arrest took place at Ramli's home.

In the attack on Ruslan's house during the early hours of Sept. 20, two men were seen firing a grenade into the compound before fleeing on a motorcycle. The grenade failed to detonate, but still caused panic.

The incident was the latest in a series of attacks targeting key regional officials across Aceh.

In June of last year, unknown gunmen opened fire on the vehicle of Tagore Abubakar, the head of Bener Meriah district. Two months earlier, attackers threw a live grenade at the home of Izil Azhar, the head of the Sabang chapter of the Aceh Party. Both officials survived the attacks.

The spate of violence, which many blamed on hard-line GAM sympathizers disappointed with the Aceh Party's increasingly nationalist policies, came ahead of bitterly contested gubernatorial, district and municipal elections in the province that had to be repeatedly pushed back until April this year.

Ruslan, the target in the latest attack, is officially backed by the Aceh Party.