In the Philippines, police and hospitals reported 18 deaths and hundreds of injuries from firecracker mishaps and stray bullets during New Year celebrations. 

In Aceh, the powerful bomb tore through the stage where the concert was being held at Peureulak, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki said on Thursday.

A one-year-old baby girl and a seven year-old boy were among the dead. Basuki said most of the dead victims were teenagers and blamed the attack on rebels of the Free Aceh
Movement (GAM).

GAM, however, denied responsibility. 

A witness at the scene, who gave his name as Ahmad, said the stage erected on a football field was badly damaged and musical instruments blown apart.

"After several songs, suddenly there was a loud bang. People panicked and ran," he said. 

"The show was organised by the military and it was them who lured people to frolic. The military must be responsible for the death of civilians" 

Ishak Daud,
Free Aceh Movement

A local rebel commander, Ishak Daud, denied GAM was behind the attack. "We have never targeted civilians because they are our people," Daud said.

"The show was organised by the military and it was them who lured people to frolic. The military must be responsible for the death of civilians," he said. 

In the Philippines, a barrage of noise and light began across the nation of 82 million at dusk on Wednesday, exploding into the early hours of 2004 from backyards, street parties and organised displays. 

Despite what police called a peaceful party, fireworks were again the culprit in most of the accidents.

At least 18 people were killed at a market in Lucena City, about 100km southeast of Manila, when a firecracker vendor set off a massive blaze by testing his wares too close to his storeroom, police said on Thursday. 

Toll may rise

The death toll may rise as 22 people were missing, they
said. 

Eleven fires in Manila raced through a home for the disabled, a plastics factory, another market and dozens of houses, but caused no serious injuries.

At least 500 people were hurt by exploding firecrackers and 11 wounded by celebratory gunfire, including a 13-year-old girl, hit in the arm by a bullet as she watched a fireworks show. 

"We're still getting reports from the field but I think the celebration was generally peaceful," Joel Goltiao, a national police senior superintendent, told reporters.

"Although the mood was very festive, there were less casualties than we expected." 

In the run-up to New Year's Eve, officials urged the public to leave guns at home and take care with fireworks, as newspapers ran photos of hands missing fingers and other grisly injuries. 

Even police officers faced scrutiny after eight were arrested last year for firing weapons in the air. This time, tape was put over gun muzzles so commanders could tell who broke the rules.