Indonesia seizes suspected chief people smuggler
7 November 2001

Jakarta -- Indonesian police said on Wednesday they had arrested an Egyptian suspected of being the chief smuggler responsible for organising a refugee boat for illegal migrants which sank last month killing more than 350 people.

National Police spokesman Saleh Saaf said Egyptian Abu Quassey, whom Australian authorities have accused of being responsible for much of the illegal people trafficking from the Middle East to Australia, was arrested in West Java on Sunday together with a colleague.

"Abu Quassey was arrested on November 4 with his right-hand man Johan. We are still searching for four other members of Quassey's gang," Saaf told Reuters. He said a special police team set up two weeks ago to hunt down the suspected smugglers had tracked down the gang from Sumatra to West Java.

"We are still questioning them and trying to find the most appropriate law violations to bring them to the court. Further actions on these suspects will depend on the results of the investigations," Saaf said. "We are trying to crack down on the gang from the top to the bottom. We are coordinating with Australian police on this," he added.

Australia has long urged Jakarta to crack down on human smugglers, but Indonesia had been reluctant until the October incident in which an overcrowded boat bound for Australia's Christmas Island sank off Java, killing more than 350 people.

The vast Indonesian archipelago is the staging post for many illegal migrants -- mainly from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka -- who try to reach Australia on leaky fishing boats organised by smugglers who make millions of dollars out of the trade. Last month, two Indonesian police officers were arrested for protecting people smugglers


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