Jakarta – Anwar Congo, former leader of a death squad that is alleged to have killed thousands of suspected Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members in Medan, North Sumatra, in mid-1960s, passed away on Friday afternoon.
He died at the age of 78 in Madani General Hospital in Medan, as reported by tribunnews.com. Deputy North Sumatra Governor Musa Rajekshah was among the people who went to Anwar's home to offer his condolences prior to his burial.
Anwar was known as a longtime member of the youth organization Pemuda Pancasila (PP), in which Musa was also active prior to serving as the province's deputy governor.
Anwar's wife, Salma Miftah Salim, said her husband had been suffering from several illnesses, including a pinched nerve.
"However, he didn't mention anything about his illnesses a week before his death. He only said briefly that he was tired," she said, as quoted by tribunnews.com.
Anwar's name gained international notoriety when he was featured in The Act of Killing by American director Joshua Oppenheimer, a widely acclaimed documentary movie about the nation's bloody communist purges in mid-1960s. The director made the film over eight years with Indonesian collaborators who remain anonymous.
The movie, released in 2012, followed Anwar and his colleagues, who claimed in the film to have killed thousands of suspected PKI members in Medan between 1965 and 1968. In the film, Anwar recounted his experience of killing his victims, including his techniques and celebrations by humming and dancing after each killing.
The film received dozens of international awards, including the Aung San Suu Kyi Award at the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
The documentary also caught US media attention with a screening at the New York Film Festival, with articles appearing in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
Salma said she had contacted Oppenheimer's office regarding Anwar's passing. "Joshua called me, offering his condolences," she said, as quoted by tribunnews.com.
Oppenheimer was not immediately available for comment regarding Anwar's death. (kuk)