Monday, 16 February 2009

Police shoot it out with illegal loggers in Aceh

Police shoot it out with illegal loggers in Aceh

Source: The Jakarta Post - February 14, 2009
By Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh

Nagan Raya Police were involved in a gunfight Friday with a group allegedly involved in illegal logging, in the Rambong forest in Beutong, Nagan Raya district, in Aceh. The 15-minute shoot-out began while police were patrolling the area for signs of illegal loggers. No casualties were reported.

"They shot at us as we were recovering illegally felled logs in the forest," Nagan Raya Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ari Subijanto said. He added the logs were likely stolen by a group of men equipped with rifles. After the exchange of gunfire, the police, backed by soldiers from the Indonesian Military (TNI), managed to drive their attackers away into the forest, he said.

"They managed to flee deep into the forest, so we couldn't identify which organizations they belonged to," he said. He also said the operation against illegal loggers was launched in response to rampant log thefts in the forest.

At least 200 security personnel from the police and the military remain on guard at the site where the shoot-out occurred. Despite not being able to identify the gunmen, Ari said some of them were probably former rebels who had retained their weapons.

"To date, there are still a number of civilian groups in Aceh who are hanging on to their weapons - illegally - and seeking to cause unrest." Ari urged the public to report any such persons to the authorities.

"We will not let them to escape freely. We'll continue hunting them down," he promised.

The deforestation rate in Aceh has reached troubling highs recently due to illegal logging, with at least 20,796 hectares of forest cleared each year.