Indonesia dismisses troop revolt leader

JAKARTA (AFP) – The commander of an Indonesian army battalion which revolted against its officers in the restive province of Papua has been dismissed from his post, an army spokesman said Thursday.

The move came a day after about 200 troops rioted over their officers’ refusal to pay the full costs of returning a dead soldier’s body to his family in another province.

They fired shots in the air, stormed their commander’s office, smashed windows, threatened journalists and reportedly blocked roads during several hours of mayhem which has embarrassed the Indonesian military.

“We have dismissed battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Lambok Sihotang. He has been having a leadership issue,” army spokesman Christian Zebua said.

The battalion’s deputy commander and its intelligence chief were also dismissed for “leadership problems”, he added.

The troops were not happy that the army had refused to foot the entire bill for transporting their dead comrade’s body, Zebua said.

“That was the cause of dispute. It’s true that the battalion should foot the costs but if it had no money it could report the matter to the military chief. But the three heads made no such report. That’s wrong,” he said.

Officers said the situation was under control on Thursday as the country’s top brass rushed to sort out what had happened in one of Indonesia’s most sensitive military commands.

Military chief General Djoko Santoso met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, an ex-general himself, to discuss the incident and army commander General Agustadi Sasongko went to the scene of the uprising in Sentani, Papua.

“I regret the incident and apologise to the people in Sentani who were disturbed, including the journalists, ” Santoso told reporters after meeting Yudhoyono in Jakarta.

“The army chief is in the area and the situation now is under control.”

He said the rebellious troops would be punished according to the law.

Papua is a rugged, resource-rich region at the eastern extremity of the Indonesian archipelago, bordering Papua New Guinea.

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