The Indonesian government insists that weapon-smuggling allegations leveled at Indonesian police officers returning from a peacekeeping mission in Sudan are marred with inconsistencies, as officials seek more details on the incident.
“With regard to the case in Sudan, we have information on the incident, [and] there are a number of inconsistencies in the details we received early on. The United Nations are currently conducting an investigation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said on Monday.
National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian on Monday met with Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi on the issue, but no details of the meeting have been disclosed.
Sudanese media reported over the weekend that the North Darfur administration had detained an Indonesian police unit that was in the process of returning home after serving for one year under the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
The officers were prevented from leaving the country when El-Fasher Airport security seized a large number of weapons and ammunition “found” in luggage believed to belong to the Indonesian Formed Police Unit (FPU), which the unit denied.
“The initial information we received was that the luggage did not belong to the Indonesian police unit,” Arrmanatha said, adding that a team from the National Police was set to leave for Khartoum to seek answers and provide legal assistance to the detainees.
According to the Sudanese Media Center, various weapons and ammunition were unearthed during a search by local authorities, including 29 Kalashnikov rifles, six GM3 rifles and 61 other handguns, as well as large quantities of ammunition.
National Police spokesman Sr. Com. Martinus Sitompul confirmed that the entire 139 personnel of FPU VIII were currently being held in Sudan after local authorities had accused them of attempting to smuggle weapons.
Martinus said the officers had left the Garuda Camp on Saturday, as the replacement team, FPU IX, was due to arrive on the following day.
The outgoing group had left with two containers full of luggage, which had already been checked before being packed, he said, adding that 40 FPU VIII personnel had accompanied the luggage to El Fasher Airport.
He said all scanned items passing through the X-ray eventually ended up piling up some 10 meters away from the machine.
“Airport officials asked several times whether the entire pile belonged to the Indonesian personnel, to which the police personnel repeatedly said ‘no’,” Martinus told The Jakarta Post over the phone on Monday.
Citing an explanation by FPU VIII chief, who was on site, Adj. Sr. Comr. John Hutajulu, Martinus said several items did not belong to the Indonesian group and did not bear the marking sticker to signify ownership.
“They are currently being held, not detained, in a transit camp in Sudan. They are there because the Garuda Camp is already occupied by FPU IX,” Martinus said.
Police had deployed 140 personnel in FPU VIII, which is the maximum number allowed by the UN for the task force. However, Martinus said, one person had returned early due to illness.
According to the UN, the peacekeeping mission in war-torn Sudan comprises 19,248 police and military personnel from various countries. The FPU task force refers only to the police personnel involved in the UNAMID force.
Indonesia first sent the FPU to Darfur in 2008.
The armed conflict in Darfur has claimed between 200,000 and 300,000 civilian lives and displaced more than 2 million people since it began in 2004, according to UN data.
Last week, Tito led a ceremony to see off 140 police officers from the Garuda Bhayangkara II FPU IX to replace the outgoing FPU VIII.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Military (TNI) has distanced itself from the case, with TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Wuryanto saying the Garuda Contingent XXXV-B also serving under UNAMID had no role in the incident.
Having consulted with a number of commanders in the field, Wuryanto said the military contingent continued to carry out its duties in Sudan until March.
“What is clear is that no one from the TNI is involved,” he told the Post on Monday.
Indonesia first sent military peacekeepers to serve under UNAMID in February 2015.