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GAM even stronger after Aceh tsunami: TNI chief

Detik.com - May 12, 2005

Luhur Hertanto, Jakarta – Don’t think that all of GAM’s (Free Aceh Movement) members fell victims to the tsunami. Recent armed contacts between GAM and the TNI (armed forces) in Aceh is evidence that GAM is actually even stronger.

It is believed that there has been an increase in its strength and the number of personnel within GAM. This is because when the earthquake and tsunami inundated Aceh, many GAM personal escaped and rejoined GAM forces in the mountains.

 “After we evaluated [the station], many GAM members escaped at the time of the tsunami”, said TNI chief Endriartono Sutarto before taking part in a cabinet meeting at the presidential offices on Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara in Central Jakarta on Thursday May 12.

Sutarto’s statement is indeed different to what was said before the earthquake and tsunami inundated Aceh. At that time Sutarto said that the strength and the size of GAM’s forces were weakening in conduction with the state of civil emergency coming into effect.

Sutarto gave another reason why GAM is now stronger – many GAM members who were in detention disappeared at the time of the tsunami. They also stole weapons, which were stored at police barracks after the buildings were destroyed.

According to Sutarto many weapons from police barracks have indeed disappeared. It is strongly suspected that these weapons have fallen into the hands of GAM. With this increase in weaponry, GAM is increasing its level of armed criminal actions in Aceh such as abductions, robberies and collecting illegal taxes.

So under conditions such as this is it still appropriate for the state of civil emergency to be maintained? “I think that [we] could still consider extending the state of civil emergency”, explained Sutarto.

Bearing in mind this need, the Coordinating Minister of Political, Security and Legal Affairs in currently thinking about forming a small team with the task of evaluating the state of civil emergency to date. This team would recommend whether or not there is a need to extend the state of civil emergency in Aceh. (atq)

[Translated by James Balowski.]
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