Teungku Ramli Basyah, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) deputy chief for Pase region and his bodyguard were killed during a raid in North Aceh on Thursday, said Major General Bambang Darmono, commander of the military operation in the province.

  

He said Basyah, 35, was a deputy of Sofyan Daud, GAM commander for the Pase district in northern Aceh.

 

Both rebels had tried to escape but soldiers had closed all exit points in the area during the raid, Darmono told a press conference on Friday. He said soldiers seized a handgun and some ammunition from Basyah.

 

Escape

  

The general said local residents had reported Basyah's activities in the area. Basyah had managed to escape two previous raids. A resident told reporters that the pair had fought for 20 minutes before being killed.

  

Security forces on Friday also shot dead three guerrillas in separate skirmishes in North Aceh district, said Aceh military spokesman Ahmad Yani Basuki.

  

He said soldiers on Thursday killed 14 rebels in three different areas of the district, a known rebel stronghold.

  

The military is now in its fourth month of an all-out drive to rid the resource-rich province on Sumatra island of the rebels, who have been fighting for independence since 1976. 

Earlier Basuki said troops shot dead three suspected rebels in separate clashes in the Samalanga area of Bireuen district on Wednesday and Thursday.

  

He said soldiers killed three other guerrillas in South Aceh's Bakongan area and the Tiro area of Pidie district on Wednesday.

  

Basuki said security forces had arrested 12 suspected rebels in several areas in the past three days.

  

GAM could not be immediately reached for comments on the military claims.

 

The military is now in its fourth month of an all-out drive to rid the resource-rich province on Sumatra island of the rebels, who have been fighting for independence since 1976.

  

Military spokesman Ditya Sudarsono on Friday said that as of Thursday troops had killed 845 guerrillas, while more than 1800 others had been arrested or had surrendered since the offensive began on 19 May. The military had lost 39 soldiers and the police 15 officers.

  

Aceh police say at least 319 civilians have been killed during the same period while 108 have gone missing. They did not say which side was to blame for the civilian deaths.