Indonesian forces are scouring Aceh to find followers of Din Minimi, a former guerrilla who has taken up arms again to protest what he says is economic injustice in the province.
Ten years after a peace deal ended the separatist rebellion in Aceh, the province’s current government has failed to carry out provisions that guarantee the social welfare of the Acehnese people, Din told BenarNews.
In a phone call Wednesday from an undisclosed location, Din acknowledged that his group had committed crimes in East Aceh, including the kidnapping of Scottish oil worker Malcolm Primrose in June 2013, and the theft of cars belonging to natural gas company PT CPM.
“We carried out those actions because people who live around there were not given work by the company. We had hoped the presence of those companies would create job opportunities. But the fact is the people didn’t get jobs,” said Din, whose real name is Nurdin Ismail Amat.
But he denied involvement in the execution-style slayings of two army intelligence officials in North Aceh on March 24. Aceh province lies on the northwestern tip of Sumatra island.
“We have no business with TNI,” he said, using the acronym name for the Indonesian military.
“Our opponents are the government of Aceh.”
He said he was speaking from inland forests in East Aceh.
His group’s mission, he said, was “to fight for justice as envisaged in the peace treaty with Indonesia.”
“We see that the government cannot provide social welfare for the people of Aceh and former GAM combatants,” Din added, using the acronym for the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the Acehnese rebel group for which he once fought.
In August 2005, the Indonesian government and GAM signed a peace agreement in Helsinki that ended a three-decade conflict, in which some 25,000 people – mostly civilians – died.
Last week, provincial police arrested 13 suspected members of an armed criminal group. They were picked up in disparate locations, including the Acehnese regencies of North Aceh and Bireuen, and nearby Riau province.
Aceh Police Chief Husein Hamidi said members of the group had confessed to being involved in last month’s kidnapping and murders of the two army intelligence officers.
The detained suspects were followers of Din, Husein told reporters in Lhokseumawe on April 13.
The officers with the North Aceh District Command (Kodim), Hendrianto and Indra Irawan, were found shot dead in Nisam Antara district. Two days earlier, on March 22, a group of armed men had snatched them.
“To date we don’t know for sure who the executioner was because not all of them have been caught,” Husein said, adding that security forces were still hunting for 10 others.
“Din Minimi’s group has carried out actions in East Aceh and North Aceh. The motive is economic. They look for wealthy people to target for extortion, kidnap them and demand ransom,” he said.
Husein noted that the soldiers’ murders likely had to do with the destruction of marijuana fields by the police and military.
‘I fight alone’
Din told BenarNews that the 13 suspects in police custody were not among his followers.
“I fight alone. Before I had a colleague, but I heard he was arrested in Riau,” he said.
“Maybe among those arrested are some people I know (if they are former GAM combatants), but they are certainly not my followers,” said Din.
He said he hoped that Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah and his deputy, Muzakir Manaf – both former GAM leaders – would address the needs of people living in poverty.
“I hope Aceh’s leaders won’t just think about their own well-being, because a lot of people need their attention. Right now many people are on the verge of starvation because there’s no work.”