Fear grips Batam as soldiers attack police HQ

Armed Indonesian soldiers and police secure a fuel station of the state-energy firm Pertamina from demonstrators during protests against fuel price increase in Makassar in South Sulawesi province on November 18, 2014 after Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveiled a hefty increase in the price of subsidised fuel on November 17, 2014, taking a bold, first step towards fixing the tattered finances of Southeast Asia's top economy.

Dozens of unidentified Army personnel surrounded the headquarters of the Riau Islands Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) in Batam, Riau Islands, opened fire and vandalized its facilities.

The situation in Batam between 5 and 11 p.m. was tense as the soldiers refused to return to their barracks and hand over their weapons, defying orders from the Bukit Barisan Military Commander Maj. Gen. Winston Simanjuntak.

Batam Deputy Governor Soerya Respationo and several journalists were caught in the cross fire as they remained inside the facilities after earlier attempts to settle the dispute failed. "The soldiers are firing at us. We're surrounded," said Soerya.

The shooting ended at around 23:30 with hundreds of civilians storming the Brimob headquarters to lend their support for the police against the attacking soldiers.

One soldier was rushed to a nearby hospital suffering from a gunshot wound. But several soldiers were seen roaming the streets searching out police officers, despite claims by Winston that the situation was under control.

Earlier in the day, around 30 soldiers from the Tuah Sakti 134 Battalion in Batam, Riau Islands, had raided the Brimob headquarters.

The clash was believed to have been related to the shooting of four Tuah Sakti Battalion members at the end of September during a police investigation into a fuel-hoarding case.

After the initial attack, the elite police unit headquarters was guarded by a company of military police to prevent further clashes.

Wira Pratama Military Commander chief Brig. Gen. Eko Margiyono told The Jakarta Post that the incident had begun with two Tuah Sakti Battalion members, identified as First Private Nuriyono and Chief Private Budiono, who were on their way to their lodgings located near the Brimob headquarters, after a roll call at the battalion to change their uniforms into plain clothes.

"Many of our soldiers live outside the base. As they were filling up their motorcycle at a gas station, two Brimob members were also filling gas at the same place. They stared each other out causing offence, which then resulted in a fight," said Eko.

According to Eko, the fight between the four men drew the attention of colleagues from both sides, and numbers rapidly grew. A group of around 30 Tuah Sakti Battalion soldiers gathered and planned to enter the Brimob base.

"The moment I received information, I and the Batam 0316 Military Command chief headed to the Brimob base and held a meeting with its commander to settle the problem and instructed members of the military police to order the soldiers to return to their barracks," said Eko.

According to Eko, his command was not heeded and some of the soldiers stormed into the Brimob barracks and a clinic located nearby.

"They vandalized the barracks and a number of motorcycles. However, the situation has returned to normal and the soldiers have returned to their base," said Eko. earlier in the afternoon.

He added that he had ordered all soldiers in the battalion to remain in their barracks.

"Now, a military police company is securing the Brimob base. I assure you that today's incident had nothing to do with the earlier incident. This is purely staring at each other which resulted in a fight," said Eko.