Subject: Indonesia's Feared Kopassus Unit Faces Decimation

The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo) Sunday, February 27, 2000 -front page-

Indonesia's feared Kopassus unit faces decimation

By Takao Hishinuma /Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent


    The Indonesian Army will cut close to 90 percent of the soldiers in its elite Kopassus special forces brigade, a source close to armed forces commander Adm. Widodo Adi Sutjipto told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Saturday.

    Considered to be the advance guard that supported the Suharto dictatorship, Kopassus is strongly suspected of having plotted the uprisings in East Timor and Aceh, even after President Suharto had left office.

    Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid is said to have taken the initiative in cutting down the number of commandos in the crack unit in an effort to steer Indonesia toward democratization.

    There are currently about 6,000 soldiers in the brigade. Its size will be decreased in several stages, ultimately bringing the force down to 700-1,000 personnel. Removed soldiers will be transferred to the marine corps, according to the plan, which is to be implemented soon.

    The missions of Kopassus include antiguerrilla activities, intelligence gathering and political agitation, among others. Its members were involved in the assassinations of dissident activists and leaders of the independence movement during the Suharto era.

    Suharto's son-in-law became the force's commander at the beginning of the 1990s, effectively putting the brigade beyond the control of the regular army.

    Having become an army within an army and symbol of human rights oppression, Kopassus managed to stay in existence even after Suharto had stepped down from the presidency by keeping connections with those who had been close to the deposed president.

    With the support of those who wished to protect their vested interests, the force is suspected of having manipulated regional uprisings and threatening subsequent presidential administrations.

    "Kopassus has undoubtedly had some links to the uprisings in East Timor and Maluku and the independence movement in Aceh," the source said.

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