Indonesia sends police and army chiefs to Batam

Indonesia sends police and army chiefs to Batam

Indonesia's national police chief and army chief flew to Batam yesterday to ease tensions there, following deadly clashes late on Wednesday night between police and soldiers in which one military officer died after being shot.

The clash started over a staring incident between four soldiers and two policemen at a gas station, according to a statement from the military. But a statement from the police said the trouble started at a restaurant.

At the height of the tensions, dozens of unidentified army personnel besieged the headquarters of the Riau Islands Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) in Batam, opened fire and vandalised the facilities on Wednesday night, according to media reports.

The shooting ended at around 11.30pm when hundreds of civilians stormed the Brimob headquarters to lend support to the police officers there as they faced off against the attacking soldiers, according to The Jakarta Post newspaper.

Located to the south-east of Singapore, Batam is just a short ferry ride away from the Republic and is popular with holidaymakers.

Some 410 of the 588 companies and factories on the island are Singapore-operated.

"The police and the military have agreed to do respective internal investigations and will mete out the hardest sanctions against anyone who breached the law," the national police chief, General Sutarman, who uses a one-word name, told reporters in Batam.

"Soldiers who are not disciplined are equivalent to armed mobs," the army chief of staff, Gen Gatot Nurmantyo, said at the same press conference.

The police said they would focus on uncovering those responsible for the killing of a military officer who was shot from behind, possibly with a hollow-point bullet.

The bullet caused more tissue damage than a traditional bullet would have.

"This is a special bullet, fired from a special gun. We will trace and find out whose gun this is," Gen Sutarman said.

The clash has its roots in a Sept 21 police raid on a fuel storage facility at a residential housing complex in Batam, during which four military officers were shot at and injured, according to previous media reports.

Tensions from this incident - according to media reports, it was probably tied to the smuggling of subsidised fuel - have obviously not subsided completely, observers said.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has called for calm, appealing to leaders in the police and the military to resolve the problem once and for all.

"This is a repeated incident. We have to get down to the bottom of the problem so it won't recur," he told reporters.

wahyudis@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 21, 2014.
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