Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – An Aceh National Party (PNA) legislative candidate was shot and killed late Sunday night in a hail of bullets – the latest attack on the political party ahead of April's general elections.
Unknown gunmen opened fire on a car driven by PNA candidate Faisal on a secluded road near Sawang, South Aceh, hitting his Honda Freed MPV with a barrage of 42 assault rifle rounds. He was found dead with gunshot wounds in his chest, stomach and back, South Aceh Police chief Sigit Jatmiko told the Jakarta Globe.
"It's still unclear whether the victim was chased or blocked by the shooter," Sigit said. "We also haven't figured out the number of perpetrators. The police are still investigating the case."
Police declined to specify what type of guns were used in the attack, but said they discovered 10 5.56mm shell casings at the scene – rounds used in assault rifles worldwide.
The politician was heading home when he was attacked by gunmen on an isolated stretch of road through the hills between Labuhan Haji and Sawang. The gunmen attacked at 9 p.m. local time, killing Faisal and fleeing the scene before police arrived. There were no witnesses to the attack and the nearest village was without power at the time of the shooting, Sigit said.
"The motive remains unknown," he said. "[We don't know] whether it was political or about another problem."
The party's chief Irwansyah said Faisal, the Sawang head of the party, had been the subject of repeated threats by an undisclosed party. He urged police to prevent additional killings in the lead-up to the legislative election. "Looking back at the previous violent attacks on our members, this shooting is definitely has a political motive," Irwansyah said.
It was the second attack against PNA members in less than a month. On Feb. 6, the party's head in Kuta Makmur, North Aceh, was beaten to death in front of a crowd by two men allegedly from the rival Aceh Party (PA). The men accused Juwaini of removing a PA flag in Lamkuta village before immediately attacking him in a savage beating outside a kiosk. A crowd watched the assault but said they were too scared to intervene.
The Aceh Party party members fled the scene, eluding capture. Juwaini was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died shortly after admittance. Aceh Party chief Muzakir Manaf denied the party's role in the attacks. The killing remains unsolved.
The killings began in late April with the death of PNA politician Muhammad bin Zainal Abidin. Police found Muhammad shot to death on April 27 after officers pulled his abandoned car out of a river in Pidie district. His body was found in the back seat of his car. Muhammad had been shot twice in the back of the head.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) called the early signs of violence worrying, warning in a previous interview that "there are symptoms that a string violence will appear again."
Three political parties are competing for votes in the upcoming election. The Aceh Party – founded by ex-Free Aceh Movement (GAM) militants – has been at odds with the PNA since it lost members to former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf's fledgling party in 2012. The Aceh Peace Party (PDA), founded by local clerics, also entered the political spectrum in 2012.
The resurgence of violence in the lead-up to the general election is a worrying turn for Aceh. The semi-autonomous province's 2012 elections were marred by bloodshed as then-governor Irwandi faced down Aceh Party's Zaini Abdullah for the contested governor's seat. Both men used to be part of the province's GAM separatist forces – an armed group that engaged in a decades-long bloody war for independence with the Indonesian Military that left more than 15,000 dead.
The conflict was settled with a 2005 peace agreement that granted the province special autonomy from the central government. But the ensuing elections, which are largely fought by parties comprised of ex-GAM members, have repeatedly turned violent. In 2012, at least nine people were killed in a wave of pre-election violence, much of it allegedly centered on members of the rival political parties.
Some Aceh Party members boycotted the 2012 registration process in protest of a decision allowing Irwandi, then an independent candidate, to run in the election. The Aceh Party painted Irwandi as a turncoat over his refusal to run with the GAM-affiliated party. The former governor was then attacked by a mob of Aceh Party supporters while attending the inauguration of Zaini in July of 2012.
In total, the Aceh Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) recorded 57 instances of violence in the run-up to the 2012 election.