- Indonesian policeman shot dead in central Jakarta
- Soaring land prices push Myanmar's poor into streets
- Moro rebels using human shields during standoff in Zamboanga
JAKARTA (AFP) - Motorcycle gunmen have shot dead a policeman as he escorted a convoy in downtown Jakarta, an official said Wednesday, the latest brazen assault on an officer in the capital.
It was the fourth fatal shooting of a policeman in or around the city in recent weeks and the most high-profile yet, as it was in central Jakarta and right by the headquarters of a powerful law enforcement agency.
Police said the shooting late Tuesday followed the pattern of previous attacks, and they suspected the same terror group was behind the killings.
In the latest attack, the policeman was on a motorcycle escorting six trucks carrying elevator parts on a busy main road when four gunmen riding motorbikes opened fire on him, police said.
The officer, identified as Sukardi, was passing the offices of the Corruption Eradication Commission when the attack happened at 10:15 pm (1515 GMT).
"The policeman died instantly after being shot three times in his chest and stomach," said Jakarta police spokesman Rikwanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
Police launched a massive manhunt after the killing, setting up road blocks and questioning motorists.
The attack came after three policemen were shot dead in two separate attacks in Tangerang district on Jakarta's western outskirts in August.
While Indonesian security forces have been targeted by terror groups in recent years, the upsurge of attacks in the capital is a new development.
Most previous attacks had taken place in the district of Poso on Sulawesi island in central Indonesia, where terror groups hide out in the jungles.
Indonesia launched a crackdown on Islamist militant networks a decade ago after attacks on Western targets, which has successfully dismantled some of the deadliest groups.
YANGON: Soaring rents in Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon have seen hundreds of poor families shunted from their homes, forcing them to turn to charity as their last buffer from life on the streets.
Political transformation, which has swept the country since the quasi-civilian government took power in 2011, has seen sanctions lifted from the former pariah state and stoked rising investment interest in the perceived frontier market.
But the changes have also fuelled rampant speculation in the commercial hub Yangon, squeezing the poor into homelessness.
"Whole families came saying they had no place to live, nothing to eat, begging for help," said 61-year-old Khin San Oo, manager at a makeshift centre for the displaced in a Buddhist monastery in a scruffy suburb of the former capital.
Abbott Ottamasara offered free plots on 30 acres of land at the Thabarwa – or "nature" – compound 16 months ago and word has spread fast, drawing penniless families from Yangon and surrounding districts.
More than 2,400 families have now built small shanties in the grounds an hour's drive from downtown Yangon.
Hundreds of others, who cannot afford construction costs, are sheltering in a communal bamboo dormitory at the site, which is home to a meditation centre.
Surging demand for property as Myanmar undergoes rapid change since shedding the isolation of junta rule has threatened to push more people from their homes, with rent hikes compounding low wages in and around the country's most populous city.
Figures from estate agents show rents have risen by 25% this year for a small Yangon apartment, while sales prices have doubled or even trebled over the past two years in some neighbourhoods.
Tin Tin Win, 57, says she was forced to move to the compound with her daughter, son, two grandchildren and husband, after the family was asked to pay six months in advance to renew the lease on their property.
"Our rent went up several times... we couldn't afford to stay in our house. That's why we had to move here," she said, adding that she was secure, but uncomfortable, in the cramped new lodgings.
President Thein Sein has made slashing poverty rates a pillar of reforms in Myanmar, where the former military rulers neglected to build a state safety net during their corrupt, decades-long rule.
But that goal appears far off.
"The whole world now knows that the land price here (in Yangon) is very expensive," said Than Oo, 64, managing director of Mandaing real estate company.
Families have been forced out to satellite towns because of the high rents, he said, urging the "stabilisation of the real estate market".
Monks at the monastery have been unable to turn away the cascade of new arrivals. But staff say the land is now full, leaving the abbot scratching around for donors with space to spare for the needy.
Myint Nwe, who lives in the monastery's stable-like dormitory with her nine-strong family, is grateful for the lifeline offered by the abbot.
"My husband had a stroke two years ago. After that we had nothing to eat," said the mother of five, explaining how they came to the monastery, as her husband sat expressionless next to her.
While she is able to sell fruit to buy occasional snacks for her children or medicine for her husband, Myint Nwe, like many others in the monastery housing, can see no way back to independence. — AFP
ZAMBOANGA: Muslim militants traded gunfire with Philippine troops and were using almost 200 villagers as human shields, officials said, in a standoff after a deadly attack on a southern city.
Gunshots rang out on the coastal outskirts of Zamboanga city yesterday, the second day of a confrontation between the government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters intent on derailing peace talks.
"The security forces... have stabilised the situation. It has been contained and isolated and won't spread to other areas," Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told reporters, adding that authorities were trying to negotiate with the gunmen.
About 180 residents are being used as "human shields" in six villages where the rebels are holed up and surrounded by security forces, Roxas told a joint news conference with Zamboanga mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar.
The government had described the villagers as "hostages" but Roxas said it appeared they could be free to leave if they wished.
"It appears that what happened is not hostage-taking but more of them being turned into human shields by the MNLF forces who entered their communities. People are free to get in and out of there, they are not bound, they are not detained," he said.
"Whether they are hostages or not is still being validated."
The gunmen, followers of MNLF foun- der Nur Misuari, landed by boat and poured into the fishing villages on Monday before mounting an assault on Zamboanga, causing panic in the city of nearly one million people.
Misuari, who could not be reached by AFP nor by government negotiators, had earlier declared "independence" for the Muslim southern regions of the mainly Catholic Philippines and called on his followers to besiege government installations.
President Benigno Aquino, speaking to reporters in Manila, refused to set a deadline for resolving the crisis.
"We can't be giving deadlines when what we want to ensure is that no more civilians are affected, hurt or killed," he said.
The initial attack killed four people and left 14 injured, Roxas and Salazar said, reducing the toll given on Monday when the mayor said there were six dead and 24 wounded, and giving no explanation for the revision.
Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala estimated there were 180 MNLF gunmen hiding out in the communities and armed with rifles and mortars, revising down
an earlier estimate of 200 to 300.
About 1,500 elite troops backed by a smaller number of police have surrounded the area to hold the gunmen in place and prevent the arrival of potential rebel reinforcements, he said.
Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, speaking alongside Roxas and Salazar, said government forces "were able to intercept" other MNLF forces who had been on their way to Zamboanga, but gave no details.
MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla told DZMM radio that the rebels were prepared to dig in.
"Our forces will stay where they are. They are on a defensive posture," he said.
The fighting has displaced about 1,500 residents of the mainly Muslim villages.
ABS-CBN television footage showed hundreds of residents, including old women and children, spending the night sleeping on the floor of crowded gyms after fleeing the conflict.
Misuari has criticised a preliminary peace deal signed last year by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which split from the MNLF in 1978.
He said the agreement marginalised his group and a peace treaty that it signed in 1996.
The gunmen launched their attack as the government prepared to resume peace talks with the MILF, aimed at ending a 42-year-old rebellion that has claimed 150,000 lives.
It was the second such attack on Zamboanga since 2001, when Misuari's men men also took dozens of hostages and left many more dead, but were given safe passage out of the city by freeing their captives.
Misuari fled to Malaysia, where he was arrested and deported, and was kept in police prisons in Manila until the government dropped all charges against him in 2008. — AFP
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