‘Third party’ in shooting deaths?


SENIOR Indonesian military officers, seeking to explain the shooting deaths of at least 11 people on Friday, yesterday suggested that “a third party” could have been responsible.

Its aim: to whip up public anger against the military, create dissension within ranks, further destabilise the situation and provoke a backlash against armed forces chief General Wiranto.

A senior Abri officer told The Sunday Times that preliminary investigations showed that live ammunition might have been used against the thousands who took to the streets.

“There was an order to fire only warning shots from Gen Wiranto,” said the source. “He did not order them to use real bullets. The soldiers were only allowed to use rubber bullets and blanks.”

Senior officers briefed Gen Wiranto on their findings yesterday before he attended an emergency Cabinet meeting chaired by President B.J. Habibie.

The source, who attended the meeting, said the decision to fire warning shots and tear gas was taken because the crowds were “swelling to great numbers that would have made it difficult to control”.

“We wanted to break up the crowds because we were afraid that elements within them could have instigated them to riot and loot. It would have been a repeat of the May fiasco. The killings have just changed the whole political dimension. It should never have reached this situation,” he said.

Other senior officers said a miscommunication of orders could also have resulted in some units carrying live ammunition.

But another senior Abri source suggested that “a third party” – civilians or military personnel acting outside the chain of command – could have penetrated the troops and fired live rounds at the crowds.

He pointed to yesterday’s shooting of a Marine outside the Catholic Atmadjaya University as an example.

“People are saying he was shot by the police. But our intelligence report indicates that he was shot from a distance – from a nearby building or bridge,” he said.

“And what is the motive? To drive a wedge between the police and marines and army troops and to split the military from the people.”

He added: “Since the formation of this transitionary government in May, there has been a concerted attempt to destroy the armed forces.”

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