Updated: 04/01/2014 14:22 | By Agence France-Presse

Three shot dead in Indonesia's Aceh ahead of elections

Gunmen riding a motorcycle have shot dead three people including a toddler in Indonesia's Aceh, police said Tuesday, the latest violence in the western province before legislative elections next week.

Three shot dead in Indonesia's Aceh ahead of elections

A seriously wounded member of the Aceh Party is treated at a hospital in Banda Aceh on April 1, 2014 after gunmen opened fire on a small van decorated with pictures of election candidates from the party - by Chaideer Mahyuddin

The victims were killed late Monday when two men on a motorcycle opened fire on a small van decorated with pictures of election candidates from the Aceh Party, which dominates local politics.

Police said it was not clear who the gunmen were although there has been an upsurge in politically-linked attacks ahead of the April 9 polls. 

The violence highlighted that security remains fragile in Aceh, on the northernmost tip of Sumatra island, almost a decade after a peace deal ended a 30-year separatist insurgency in the province that left some 25,000 people dead.

"The gunmen were believed to have been following the minivan -- which was carrying 12 people, including two toddlers -- and fired shots from behind, hitting four people," said Ali Khadafi, police chief of Bireuen district, where the attack took place.

The driver rushed the passengers to a local health centre, but the 18-month-old boy, a man and a woman were dead on arrival, Khadafi said.

A 35-year-old man remains in critical condition, he added. 

There have been spate of shootings, grenade attacks and assaults in Aceh in recent weeks, as parties campaign ahead of the elections.

Bloody violence also hit Aceh ahead of the 2012 governor elections and the 2009 legislative polls.

NGOs have accused the Aceh Party -- formed by former rebel fighters -- of carrying out the bulk of attacks on opposition members and supporters.

The elections, which are held every five years, will see 15 parties compete for some 20,000 seats in legislatures at the national, provincial and district level.

Under special autonomy granted by the peace deal, Aceh is Indonesia's only province that can field candidates from its local parties against those from national parties at the elections.

However it cannot compete for seats in the national parliament, only local legislatures.

Aceh is also the only province in Indonesia with Islamic sharia law.

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