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The cycle of violence in Aceh was exemplified by the following incident that took place during Human Rights Watch's May 2001 visit. The violence did not begin, however, with the abduction described; military operations, GAM attacks, and military reprisals against villagers had already been going on for some time in the area. But the Samalanga killings give some idea of how and why the political violence in Aceh is escalating.

On Wednesday, May 9, 2001, Mak Pri, the thirty-five-year-old wife of the Samalanga subdistrict military commander (KORAMIL 016) disappeared after being abducted by GAM. A mother of two children, she had gone into the village of Simpang Mamplan, ostensibly to seek the services of a traditional healer. According to local residents, however, she aroused village suspicions by going from house to house, asking questions that had no relation to her ills. For example, they said, she wanted to know where the houses of local village officials were. The villagers found it odd that she would be seeking medicines and advice at more than one house, since there is usually only one well-known healer in each village. They suspected her of being a cuak, or military informer, and someone reported to GAM, whose forces then took her into custody. The residents Human Rights Watch talked to did not know any details about the circumstances of the abduction.16

When Mak Pri did not return, the security forces mounted a massive hunt in the area, using joint teams of military and police, including some stationed in the area (known as organic forces) and others from outside (known as non-organic or auxiliary forces, usually abbreviated BKO, bantuan kendali operasi.) One villager who encountered a search team on the evening of May 9 was told that if Mak Pri were not returned safely within twenty-four hours, the entire village would be burned to the ground.17

On May 10, around 10:00 a.m., three trucks arrived in Simpang Mamplan with both army and Brimob on board. They proceeded to search the village, demanding that people produce identification cards. The adult men tried to stay hidden, fearing that any male would be suspected of being a GAM member. The soldiers looked for the village head, and when they could not find him, they roughly questioned one of his children. Then they burned down the family's home.

Around 6:00 p.m. on the same day, army search teams found the body of Mak Pri near a ricefield in Ceureucok, not far from Simpang Mamplan. According to press accounts, quoting police, she had been shot, and her body also bore marks of torture.18 According to villagers who, however, had only heard reports from neighbors and had not actually seen the body, there was a large bruise on her left chest, but no evidence of bullet wounds.19 About the same time, her husband, Corporal Aiyub Ismail, the KORAMIL commander, was leading operations in Simpang Mamplan.20 It is not clear whether he was already informed of her death at the time the next sequence of events occurred.

According to the villagers, just after sunset, Fuadi Mukhtar, aged twenty, went out of his house in Simpang Mamplan to use the outdoor toilet.21 A group of military men caught him and dragged him along into the center of the village, shouting for all the women to come out and watch. Then, as they were watching, the soldiers accused him of being a GAM member and shot him several times in the face and chest.

They dumped his body on the ground. A short while later, another man named Teungku Usman, aged thirty-two, came out of a coffee stall because he wanted to move his motorcycle. A group of soldiers seized him as well and began beating him until he was pleading with them to stop. Then they pushed him down beside Fuadi's body and emptied their rifles into both. One of them cut the throat of Teungku Usman with the bayonet of his gun, then used the bayonet to slash a big "X" on Fuadi's body. Before they finally left, the villagers alleged, Corporal Aiyub personally set fire to Teungku Usman's motorcycle.

On Saturday, May 12, 2001, military operations in the Samalanga area continued, with houses and other properties being burned. A sawmill belonging to one Ibnu Hajar Abdurrahman, thirty-two, of Ie Rhop village, Samalanga, was one of the businesses torched by Indonesian soldiers, after an armed clash between GAM and Indonesian army forces took place about half a kilometer from the sawmill. According to press reports, the police then summoned Ibnu Hajar and his brother to police headquarters in Samalanga. Ibnu Hajar and his wife, Suriyani, responded to the summons at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday. According to villagers, the two were stopped at a checkpoint and taken to police headquarters.22 According to both accounts, Ibnu Hajar was ordered to stay at the police station, but his wife was permitted to go home.

When Suriyani returned with her father-in-law a few hours later, she was not allowed to see her husband. The police chief told her that Ibnu Hajar had been "borrowed temporarily" but did not say by whom or where he was taken.23

On Sunday, May 13, Ibnu Hajar Abdurrahman was found dead in the same place that the Koramil commander's wife had been dumped. He had three bullet holes in his chest and stab wounds in his neck, according to the press. According to villagers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, one of whom was Suriyani's relative, Ibnu Hajar's face had been slashed from ear to ear across his mouth, and his heart had been removed.24

Neither side has acknowledged responsibility for any of these deaths. When asked about Ibnu Hajar's death and the deaths of Teungku Usman and Fuadi Muktar, the police chief of Bireun district told journalists that he had not yet received any reports about the incidents.25 When a journalist from the Banda Aceh newspaper Serambi asked the district GAM commander, Tgk. Darwis Jeunib, about the death of Mak Pri, he refused to comment.

When Human Rights Watch interviewed villagers, it was the killings of Fuadi Mukhtar and Teungku Usman that most concerned them, and it was only after some probing that they referred to the death of the Koramil commander's wife. Clearly, the local impact of the killings of two neighbors, known to them personally, was seen as more significant than the murder of a woman who did not belong to their village community. That lack of equivalency is part of the political dynamics that the Indonesian government does not appear to understand.

16 Human Rights Watch interviews with two local women, conducted in Banda Aceh, May 21, 2001.

17 Human Rights Watch interviews, May 21, 2001.

18 "Tiga Tewas Terembak, Satu Istri Anggota TNI," Serambi Indonesia, May 11, 2001.

19 Human Rights Watch interviews, May 21, 2001.

20 Human Rights Watch interviews, May 21, 2001.

21 The women we interviewed could not quite remember his name but thought it was "Husaini." The name Fuadi Mukhtar was used in the above Seramb Indonesiai article. From the context of that unusually detailed article, it is clear it is the same person, so we are using the Serambi Indonesia name. On a list of civilian deaths given to Human Rights Watch by GAM officials in Banda Aceh, the name appears as Fauzi Mukhtar.

22 "Kilang kayu dibakar, pemiliknya tewas," Serambi Indonesia, May 14, 2001, and Human Rights Watch interviews with local women, conducted in Banda Aceh, May 21, 2001.

23 "Kilang kayu dibakar, pemiliknya tewas," Serambi Indonesia, May 14, 2001.

24 Human Rights Watch interviews, Banda Aceh, May 21, 2001.

25 "Tiga Tewas Tertembak, Satu Istri Anggota TNI" and "Kilang kayu dibakar," op. cit.

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