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Kopassus commander
Kopassus , Kostrad

MajGen (Inf) Drs Syahrir, MS, SE

Kopassus commander

In an interview soon after the Indonesian withdrawal from East Timor, Syahrir denied flatly that any Kopassus troops were in East Timor at all and that therefore there was any connection between Kopassus and the militia.[1] Numerous reports disprove his words, including the leaked Australian electronic intelligence intercepts of Kopassus officers in East Timor reported at length by Desmond Ball in this volume. Senior Kopassus officers indubitably involved in East Timor in 1999 include MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim, Kodam IX/ Udayana Chief of Staff BrigGen Mahidin Simbolon, East Timor commander Col Tono Suratman, SGI commanders LtCol Wioyotomo Nugroho and LtCol Yayat Sudrajat, and combat sector commanders Col Sunarko and LtCol Tatang Zaenuddin, to say nothing of the Kopassus units as such documented by Ball. However, Kopassus has so far been reasonably successful in covering the tracks of its most senior officers in this affair.[2]

Three Kopassus middle-ranking officers who may have acted directly under Syahrir's command (based on limited 1998 data about Kopassus appointments) and who have been mentioned as possible war crimes suspects are:[3]

  • Maj (Inf) Suryana (Kopassus command headquarters, base commander = Komandan Pangkalan, serial no. 385170).
  • Capt (Inf) Ponidjan (Grup 3/ Pusdik Passus, officer in charge of base logistics = Pasi Logistik Pangkalan, serial no. 503369).[4]
  • Capt (Inf) Suyitno (Grup 3/ Pusdik Passus, officer for clandestine affairs = Perwira Urusan Clandestin, serial no. 584379)

Group 3 / Pusdik Passus is nominally a training unit. It is based in Batujajar, West Java. However, it is thought that besides its training function, Group 3 had a clandestine role of coordinating combat operations in East Timor. In 1993 it took over the functions of the disbanded Kolakops (combat command) for East Timor. The SGI centres in East Timor were attached to Group 3. An important illustration of this close connection between Kopassus Group 3 and combat in East Timor is the fact that both before and after he served as East Timor commander, Tono Suratman commanded this unit. The mysterious Groups 4 and 5, whose members do not wear uniforms and which have counter-insurgency and intelligence functions, are drawn almost entirely from Group 3.[5]

Leaked Australian intelligence intercepts show that special Kopassus units were dispatched to East Timor at various critical times for undercover work. On 9 February, less than two weeks after the decision to hold a ballot was announced, DSD intercepted a message that 'Tribuana' and 'Venus' troops had arrived in East Timor. On September 21, as Interfet was still landing troops in Dili, DSD intercepted a phone call to the veteran pro-Indonesian political leader Francisco Xavier Lopez da Cruz, informing him that Kopassus had formed special hit-squads code-named 'Kiper-9' to hunt down pro-independence elements and pro-Indonesian figures who changed sides.[6] 


Syahrir was born on 20 July 1947 in Baturaja, South Sumatra. He graduated in 1971 from the military academy. His career has been largely within Kopassus (some with a Kostrad Airborne Brigade), including combat operations in East Timor such as the 'Nanggala Operations' in the 1980s. In 1992 he studied at the Joint Services Academy, Weston Creek, Canberra, Australia. He has held territorial commands (in Bogor and Bali), and became Kopassus commander in May 1998. In June 2000 he became Assistant for Operations, Army Chief of Staff (Asops Kasad).[7] He was replaced as Kopassus commander by MajGen Amirul Isnaeni.

Extra Information

Current Status:
1 - Priority 1 for further investigation. Not included in any other formal list, but mentioned in other independent reports, and supported by considerable data.

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
Col Sunarko

[1] 'Interfet called to disclose identities of those arrested', The Jakarta Post, 4 October 1999.

[2] Syahrir's name appears on an informal list of officers who should be investigated for atrocities committed in East Timor ('Komisi Ham PBB daftar nama jenderal Indonesia', TNI Watch! posted to SiaR News Service, 29 September 1999).

[3] 'Prajurit Yonif 406/Ck digaji uang palsu', TNI Watch! 9 December 1999.

[4] A 'Ponidjan' sent death threats to public intellectual Christianto Wibisono in 1998 for 'criticising Suharto' (menghujat Suharto). The threats appeared so credible to Wibisono that they caused him to fall into a depression and flee to the United States. ('Lebih jauh dengan: Christianto Wibisono', Kompas, 7 March 1999.)

[5] 'The Kopassus-militia alliance', Tapol Bulletin, 154/5, November 1999.

[6] Hamish McDonald, 'Australia's bloody East Timor secret', 'Silence over a crime against humanity', Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 2002.

[7] 'Daftar lengkap mutasi di tubuh TNI', Kompas, 16 June 2000.


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