Aceh tensions rise ahead of polls

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - Political tensions in Aceh have begun to rise again with a grenade blast on Jl. Daud Beureueh, Lampriet, Banda Aceh, at around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, which slightly injured three civilians.

The grenade was tossed by an unidentified person onto the roadside in front of the representative mess office of the Coordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security Affairs. The office is not far from the campaign-team office of Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, who will run in the gubernatorial election early next year.

The victims were identified as Ardeman, 20, of Lamgugop, Erliana, 22, and Erlya, 23, both of Lampulo, Banda Aceh. They sustained leg injuries and were immediately rushed to the Dr. Zainoel Abidin General Hospital in Banda Aceh.

Two days earlier, an unidentified person also threw a grenade at the same location. No casualties were reported in the previous incident.

Many fear that the attacks are closely linked to the current chaotic election process in Aceh.

On the eve of the gubernatorial race, political tensions intensified as incumbent Governor Irwandi Yusuf announced he would seek reelection for a second term, which had been prohibited under the 2006 Aceh Administration Law.

The law had said that independents could only run once to allow former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) fighters and politicians who had not yet joined a party to run in the 2006 election.

By request of Acehnese voters supporting Irwandi's reelection, the Constitutional Court annulled the bylaw limiting independents to the first direct election in 2006.

The gubernatorial election was initially scheduled for Nov. 14, 2011, but was rescheduled to amend the bylaw on local elections.

The Aceh chapter of the General Election Commission later postponed the gubernatorial election again to early next year, but no date has been set.

On Thursday, the police were still conducting a thorough investigation of the incident, collecting evidence in the form of grenade fragments at the blast scene.

"We found a grenade fuse, we believe the grenade to be of the 'pineapple'-type," Aceh Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Gustav Leo said.

According to Leo, the police had no immediate suspects as they were still investigating the incident. "Obviously, we are still building the case. Just wait for the outcome," he said.

According to a sidewalk burger-vendor, Romi, the incident took place quite suddenly and without warning. He initially thought the explosion came from a power line near the location. "We immediately ducked when we saw sparks but two of my customers who were enjoying their meals sustained injuries," said Romi.