Aceh rebel weapons destroyed

International peace monitors have fed a final batch of the rebels' weapons into a circular saw as part of an agreement to end 29 years of fighting between Indonesian government and Aceh rebels.

    Peace efforts gained momentum after tsunami struck the region

    Six Free Aceh Movement rebels presented EU-led peace monitors with their guns on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by hundreds of people.

    Members of the Aceh Monitoring Mission, AMM, received the last of the weapons that were handed over by former rebels of the Free Aceh Movement, GAM, in Banda Aceh on Wednesday.

    Since the signing of a peace agreement in August, the former fighters have handed in all of their self-declared 840 arms, and the Indonesian military has withdrawn nearly 20,000 troops from Aceh, with hundreds more scheduled to leave before the month's end.

    Each of the weapons was cut into three pieces.

    Irwandi Yusuf, the rebel spokesman said, "We are moving in the right direction and are willing to keep moving on,".

    With the sensitive phase of disarmament and decommissioning near completion, the government will start preparing laws giving the rebels the right to form a political party and cementing the region's right to greater autonomy and control of its natural resources.

    They also will start paving the way for provincial elections.

    The rebels picked up arms in 1976 to carve out an independent homeland in the oil- and gas-rich province.

    Nearly 15,000 people died, many of them civilians, caught up in army sweeps through remote villages.

    Peace efforts gained momentum after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck on 26 December 2004, killing more than 131,000 people in the province and leaving half a million others homeless.

    The two sides signed a peace pact on 15 August in the Finnish capital Helsinki, which saw the rebels drop their demand for independence and pledge to hand over their arsenal of firearms.

    In return, the government agreed to pull out all non-local military and police forces by the end of this year, grant amnesty to former rebel fighters and allow them to start political parties.

    SOURCE: AFP


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