Search for five missing aliens hindered by bad weather
THE JAKARTA POST, KUPANG
Sat, 01/17/2009 5:28 PM
Search efforts to locate five missing Afghan citizens whose boat capsized in rough seas in the Rote Strait off Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, has been hindered by bad weather.
Members of the search and rescue team focused their activities around the Kupang gulf, Semau Island waters and the Rote Strait, search-and-rescue (SAR) member Irfan said Friday.
"Heavy rainfall coupled with strong winds and high waves have hindered our efforts to search for the missing people," he said.
The five missing people were part of 18 illegal immigrants who escaped from the Kupang Immigration detention center in the early hours of Wednesday after overpowering three guards.
They were believed to have rented the boat in their attempt to flee to Australia, but their boat capsized in bad weather.
The five missing Afghans include Muneer Ahmad Iqbal, a 9-year-old boy whose father, Nawrooz Ali, was found dead earlier.
On Friday, the SAR team found two other victims, one of whom could not be identified, and the other Nasir Pello, the owner of the ill-fated boat.
The discovery raises the number of drowned people to six.
The police are also still looking for Ali Kobra, a member of an illegal immigrant smuggling ring in Kupang, believed to have helped the 18 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myan-mar escape.
Rian Gafur, one of the boat's crew members rescued after the accident, said the boat had been hired by Ali Kobra for Rp 30 million (US$2,727) to transport the 18 illegal immigrants to Pasir Island, Australia.
Gafur's statement was confirmed by the head of the Detective and Crime Unit of the Kupang Police, Adj. Comr. Anton Steven Brutu, who said, "The police believed Ali Kobra was the architect of the fleeing attempt."
"Members of the investigating team from the East Nusa Tenggara and Kupang Police have launched an intensive investigation, including searching for Ali Kobra," he added.
"The boat set off from Oeba Port at Fatubesi village, Kupang. On the way, however, it was hit by a storm in the Rote Strait and broke in two," Gafur said.
"I managed to swim and float until I was found by the SAR members the next morning."
Anton said Kupang Police had found wreckage from the boat measuring 11 meters long and 3.5 meters wide.
Head of the Kupang Immigration detention center, I Gusti Ngurah Rai, said one of the 18 illegal immigrants was a Pakistani.
"Twelve of them were Afghans and five were from Myanmar, while the four drowned victims were Afghans, one Pakistani and the boat owner," he said.
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