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Two Indonesian Police Officers Detained for Links to People-Smugglers - 2001-10-26

Indonesian authorities have detained two police officers suspected of involvement in a people-smuggling network. The arrests come after United Nations officials called for an investigation into the sinking of a ship that claimed the lives of at least 350 asylum-seekers.

Indonesia's National Police Chief General Suroyo Bimantoro said authorities are serious about hunting for people-smugglers and that two arrests have been made. General Bimantoro said a provincial police chief told him two officers were involved. They now are being detained and questioned. At least 350 asylum-seekers died when the ship that was to take them to Australia illegally capsized and sank last week. Fewer than 50 survived.

Officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization of Migration are seeking an investigation into the tragedy. They want to know how the ship, which was seriously overcrowded, was able to leave port without the knowledge of local authorities. Officials say thousands of asylum-seekers try to enter Australia illegally every year by going through Indonesia. Most are from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the survivors from last week's incident say they paid $1,500 to a people-smuggler to board the ship, which left from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. General Bimantoro said authorities are trying to break the people-smuggling ring. He said there is an international network of smugglers. The general also says authorities have the names of those involved, and they include Indonesians, an Iraqi and a Malaysian. General Bimantoro denied allegations made by some survivors that police forced the asylum-seekers on to the ship.