Indonesian forces were accused of massacring civilians during a raid against separatist guerillas in Aceh province. There were 18 killings, including the reported shooting of two 12-year-old boys.
Villagers say children shot in raid on rebels
Indonesian forces were yesterday accused of massacring civilians during a raid against separatist guerillas in Aceh province on Monday.
The 18 killings, which included the reported shooting at point-blank range of two 12-year-old boys, happened during dawn raids in four villages in Bireuen district, villagers alleged.
Residents of Cot Raboe, a village six miles from the town of Bireuen, set in a copse of tropical trees and surrounded by rice paddies and shrimp ponds, said they were woken at 5.30am by the sound of gunfire outside their homes.
Musafari, a community leader, said: "There were well over 100 soldiers charging through the village, and a helicopter hovering overhead.
"We were all too afraid to come out of our houses to see what was really going on."
Another villager, Sayful, said the soldiers barged into his house. "They told me to get up and then they just pulled me out of the house and started hitting me with a piece of wood," he said.
"They kept asking where the rebels were. I said there weren't any, but they didn't listen."
The shooting lasted for more than 30 minutes. The villagers said that when they emerged from their homes they found that one young man had been killed in the village and three teenagers and two 12-year-olds lay dead in the rice paddies and fish ponds.
"My son, Annas Nazir Abdurrahman, had been shot four times, in the head, chest, thigh and calf," said Mohammed Nazir of one of the youngest victims.
Mr Nazir found his son's body in an unplanted, water-filled paddy field, about 10 metres from the bamboo and thatch hut from where he and his four friends had been guarding the fields and ponds.
Two others were found in the same paddy fields.
Sarjani bin Amaruddin, another villager, said: "I was chased into one of the shrimp ponds, with bullets pinging all around me. But then instead of killing me they pulled me out and started beating me with their rifles."
He had an inverted V-shape of bruises and cuts the length of his torso.
Similar scenes were reported at about the same time in the neighbouring villages of Cot Bate, where eight people were killed, and Pata Mamplam and Pulo Naleng, where two people were killed in each village. Residents said they believed the helicopter was coordinating the operation.
Witnesses in Cot Bate said many of the victims, who were buried within hours of their deaths in accordance with Islamic tradition, were shot at close range.
"We have counted that at least 30 people were beaten or tortured," Musafari said. "The ambulance crews told us the soldiers blocked them from entering to look after the wounded."
Indonesia's military commander in Aceh, Major General Endang Suwarya, said there were no civilian casualties in the province yesterday but that nine separatists had been killed in military operations in Bireuen district.
Indonesia launched its military campaign against the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) on Monday after last-minute talks to save a ceasefire signed five months ago collapsed. Military commanders have stressed that civilians would not be targeted but that Gam members would be "crushed" if they did not surrender.
People in the raided villages denied that any of the victims were Gam members.
Mahmood Malik, whom Gam considers its prime minister, urged the UN to intervene immediately. He called for an international fact-finding mission to be sent to the province to investigate the "crimes against humanity that have been committed".
Lieutenant Colonel Yani Basuki, a military spokesman, refused to comment on the incident. "We are still checking the reports," he said. "We will have more details tomorrow."
But Mr Nazir said none of his son's killers would ever face justice. "There's no way we are going to complain," he said. "We are far too afraid of the Indonesian military. There's nothing we can do."
Gen Endang also said that he was imposing restrictions on the media, reversing earlier promises of free access. He said journalists who quoted Gam spokesmen would be banned from the province.
May 22, 2003
Reporters Without Borders INDONESIA: Restrictions on reporting in Aceh province