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Exiled Aceh leader returns
Thousands greet Hassan di Tiro on his return to Indonesia after nearly 30 years.
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2008 08:40 GMT

Di Tiro lived in exiled in Sweden for nearly 30 years [AFP]

The founder of  Aceh's separatist rebel movement has returned to Indonesia after nearly 30 years in exile and after a war that killed more than 15,000 people.

Free Aceh Movement (GAM) founder Hassan di Tiro, 83, was greeted by thousands of cheering supporters and former fighters after he  arrived in the capital of war-torn and tsunami-scarred Aceh  province on Saturday.

"People have come from all over Aceh. They are happy to be here just to see [di Tiro] for that split minute. His heart has always  been in Aceh," Bakhtiar Abdullah, former GAM negotiator who was jailed by the Indonesians, said.

"There are people who were very loyal to him who would die for him, and they have never seen him before. They are still loyal to him and they would do anything for him," Abdullah said.

Emotional return

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from Banda Aceh, the regional capital, said that thousands of people had gathered to welcome Di Tiro.

"They have been crying for their leader, it's an amazing sight ... I have never seen so many people gathered here ... they are so happy," she said.

"Di Tiro said he is on a social visit, but the government is nervous about his return. However, he is 83-years-old, he's a Swedish national, and I am not sure if he wants to permanently live here."
  
Aceh rebels gave up their arms and separatist rebellion in 2005 under a power-sharing agreement with the Indonesian government.

Di Tiro's declaration of independence from Indonesia in 1976 sparked the 30-year civil war.

His's return comes a day after the man who helped broker the peace deal - Martti Ahtirsaari - won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Di Tiro has been living in Sweden since late 1970's.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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