Police hunt people smugglers

Yemris Fointuna
Jakarta Post, Kupang
Mon, 01/19/2009 5:00 PM

East Nusa Tenggara Police are hunting the ring of illegal aliens for assisting the breakaway of 18 foreigners from Kupang immigration detention center Wednesday.

The immigrants are from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Pakistan.

One of the ring members, Ali Kobra, is currently becoming the police's main target.

"We are still investigating who is behind the case." said deputy chief of detectives, Adj. Sr. Comr. Samyulianus Kawengian, on Saturday.

"Several witnesses have been questioned."

The police suspect the ring's involvement after a car, used to transport the detainees to Oeba traditional port in Fatubesi village, Kupang, was parked in front of the detention center.

At the port, a boat was prepared for their journey to the Australian territory of Ashmore Reef. The boat later capsized in Rote Straits because of bad weather and high waves, killing six, including boat owner Naser Pello and a crew member. Five others remain missing.

Separately, Kupang Police chief, said police had questioned the nine survivors of the sea accident.

"We are still focusing our investigation on the survivors, who locked up and tortured three detention center guards, damaged communication devices and ripped the red-and-white flag," he said.

Heri said he had coordinated with the chiefs of neighboring police forces and other authorities to track down Ali Kobra.

Previously, witness Rian Gafur, who was also a crew member, said they were paid Rp 30 million (US$2,695) to take the escapees to Ashmore Reef.

Rian said Ali Kobra contacted him for a boat to take the 18 immigrants to Ashmore Reef.

Meanwhile, East Nusa Tenggara Social Services Agency head Sentianus Medi said the bodies of four Afghans and a Pakistani had already been buried.


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