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MajGen (Inf) Sjafrie Syamsuddin

Territorial Assistant to Chief of General Staff (Aster Kasum)

A senior officer at Abri Headquarters in Jakarta, Sjafrie Syamsuddin was formally an assistant to the Chief of General Staff (LtGen Sugiono).[1] He is thought to have spent much of 1999 leading a clandestine counter-insurgency campaign in Aceh, turning up in East Timor for the first time just three days before the UN ballot. He then probably stayed on and helped lead the planning of the scorched earth campaign that followed the announcement of the ballot result.

Francisco Kalbuadi ('Chico') identified Sjafrie at  the invasion of Bishop Belo's house by soldiers and militia men on 6 September 1999. He said shots were fired into the crowd of thousands, and the men were separated and feared killed. Sjafrie, in civilian dress, was directing the operation from the road outside the compound. Chico was a long-standing former SGI informant and knew Sjafrie well.[2] For more details see LtCol Sujarwo.

Denying Chico's allegation, Sjafrie says he was at Abri HQ at the time of the 6 September attack on Belo's house. He claims he left for East Timor as a member of a combined TNI Polri team under Rear Admiral Yoost Menko (Intelligence Assistant to Chief of General Staff) on 27 August 1999. The team went to visit a major Falintil base at the instigation of Unamet, in order to arrange an end to violence just ahead of the ballot on 30 August. Unamet chief executive Ian Martin confirms that Sjafrie was brought from Jakarta about that time for this purpose. Sjafrie says he then returned to Jakarta the next day, 28 August. He claims he made a second visit, this time of just a few hours, to oversee security preparations for a UN delegation, on 11 September.[3]

However, contrary to Sjafrie's claims, the internet news service MateBEAN on 1 September issued a news bulletin that Sjafrie was in Dili at that moment, engaged in a 'marathon' session making contingency plans in the likelihood that the vote would favour independence. The session was led by Sjafrie and MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim. The plans involved burning or damaging vital installations such as telecommunications and electricity supplies in advance of an Indonesian pull-out. Military intelligence was also providing lists of pro-independence politicians who had to be killed, the report said. At the time it was thought the ballot result would be announced on 7 September.[4]

While few details are yet known, leaked Australian intelligence intercepts show that Sjafrie Syamsuddin was part of a 'parallel chain of command' that included MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim. It had cabinet minister Feisal Tanjung at its top.[5] 


Sjafrie Syamsuddin was born on 30 October 1952 in Makassar, South Sulawesi. He graduated from the military academy in 1974. Most of his career has been in Kopassus, including participating in the invasion of East Timor (Operasi Seroja) in 1976, the first of many tours there.[6] He has also had combat experience in Aceh. His specialisation was intelligence. In 1985 he took the Infantry Officer's Advanced Course, in Fort Benning, USA. In 1990 he commanded the Kopassusí SGI (Intelligence Task Force) in East Timor, where he is reported to have been closely involved in directing the Santa Cruz massacre.[7]

In 1993 he took a two-week training course at Special Air Service base, Swanbourne, Perth, Australia.[8] He led the presidential guard for Suharto in 1993-95. He gained experience in territorial commands, especially in Jakarta where he became military commander between 1997 and 1998. He was questioned over his role in the shooting of protesters there in May 1998. In July 1998 Sjafrie was appointed Assistant for Territorial Affairs to the Chief of Staff for General Affairs (Aster Kasum ABRI, Fachrul Razi).

After East Timor he was listed as expert staff to the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security (Wiranto) (Staf Ahli Menko Polkam). He became armed forces spokesman in February 2002 - the appointment was greeted by protests from human rights organisations.

Extra Information

Implicated in Events:
Belo - 6/09/1999 - Attack on Bishop Belo's house, Dili

Current Status:
D - Dunn. The report of James Dunn, consultant to the Untaet Prosecutor General Mr Mohamed Othman, April 2001.

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
MajGen (ret) H R Garnadi
Col Gerhan Lentara
MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim
MajGen Mochtar Ma'ruf
Rear Adm Yoost F Mengko
LtGen (ret) Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo
LtGen Tyasno Sudarto
LtGen Sugiono
LtCol Sujarwo
LtGen (ret) Feisal Tanjung
MajGen (ret) Yunus Yosfiah

[1] 'Selasa milik Garnadi dan Timbul, Rabu giliran Syafrie', Tempo Interaktif, 27 December 1999.

[2] Philip Cornford, 'Belo's aide implicates top general', Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 1999; 'Xpos: Sjafrie diduga terlibat di Timtim', SiaR, 5 January 2000. Albert Hasibuan, chairman of KPP HAM, said there were other witnesses to Sjafrie's presence there ('Sjafrie mengaku berada di Mabes TNI', Kompas, 30 December 1999).

[3] 'Sjafrie denies role in attack on Belo's residence', Jakarta Post, 30 December 1999; Ian Martin, Self-determination in East Timor: The United Nations, the ballot, and international intervention, Boulder (Col): Lynne Riener, 2001, p77 fn7.

[4] 'Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin siapkan rencana darurat', MateBEAN, 1 September 1999.

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

[6] Forum Keadilan, 6 October 1997; Angkatan Bersenjata, 13 September 1997.

[7] 'Zacky dan Sjafrie sampai di sini', TNI Watch! posted to SiaR News Service, 22 September 1999.

[8] David Jenkins, 'Where Syafrie goes, trouble will follow', The West Australian, 4 September 1999. 


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