Officer killed as tension mounts

Indonesian police suffer first fatality in clashes when an intelligence man dies from a blow to the head.

IN MOUNTING tension between students and the military in Indonesia, protesters in the West Java city of Bogor killed an intelligence officer after they were barred from marching on the streets.

Second-Lieutenant Dadang Rusmana was with the police, a component of the Indonesian armed forces (Abri). He was the first officer to die in the wave of violent anti-government rallies that have been held throughout the country.

And as Abri counted the loss of one of its men, hundreds of mourners in Yogyakarta, including restive student activists, buried a 39-year-old civilian allegedly killed by security forces and promised to fight to the bitter end for political reform.

Indonesia’s leading national daily Kompas reported yesterday that 2nd-Lieut Rusmana, who was married with two children, was killed on Saturday by a blow to his head while trying to help a colleague being beaten by a student mob.

The students from Djuanda University in Bogor were angry after being banned from marching onto the streets. Some 150 students initially attacked troops by throwing rocks at them before dispersing.

Later, some of them turned on Bogor’s intelligence chief, Captain Ali, as he was about to pray in a mosque near the campus.

2nd-Lieut Rusmana went to his rescue, only to be attacked by the rock-throwing mob. He lost consciousness after being hit by a rock and died later in hospital.

There were no official comments from the military on the matter. Bogor police chief, Colonel Abubakar Nataprawira, said that nine students were in police custody for questioning.

Analysts fear that the death of 2nd-Lieut Rusmana could deal a psychological blow to soldiers keeping students off the streets and it might harden their resolve to take a tougher line, even if no such instruction came from above.

Senior Abri officials have warned that the military would not tolerate violence and would use rubber bullets and tear gas to contain protesters, as have been the case in the North Sumatran capital of Medan.

But sources here said that Abri would “not fall in the trap of using violence to fight violence” given that the current military leadership was aware the international community was scrutinising its every move against the demonstrators.

Said a senior officer: “We have been very moderate in our responses so far and have operated within the law. Any retaliation against trouble-makers will depend on the situation in the field and whether the lives of soldiers are at stake.”

Several Indonesian towns hit by student protests and unrest sparked off by rising fuel prices were calm yesterday with no reports of fresh incidents.

A notable exception was the Central Java town of Yogyakarta, where hundreds of people gathered to bury Moses Gatotkaca, who was allegedly killed by security forces last Friday. He, like 2nd-Lieut Rusmana, died of a head wound.

At the ceremony, they stood with heads bowed and occasionally raised their fists to shout “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great). Some students at the funeral believe that he could become a martyr for the movement.

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