Eight killed, say Aceh rebels

The Indonesian army entered the breakaway province of Aceh today in military operations expected to produce an estimated 100,000 refugees.

    The Indonesian army chief says
    he will "suppress the power of
    GAM to a minimum"

    Eight civilians have been killed in Indonesian military operations in the Aceh province, rebel sources said after peace talks between the government and the separatists in Tokyo broke down on Sunday.


    Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri imposed a six month period of martial law on the province with the option of extending it.


    Negotiations in Tokyo collapsed when the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rejected Jakarta's demands to lay down their weapons, drop their independence bid and accept regional autonomy.


    GAM hit back with threats to launch “fierce counter operations against the military action of the Indonesian army started today.”  Spokesman General Sufian Dawud said in a telephone interview with Aljazeera that the eight civilians were killed in western Aceh’s Lhokseumawe area.


    Military chief General Endriartono Sutarto, who arrived in Banda Aceh on Monday, said the army could "suppress the power of GAM to a minimum" within six months.


    Although the army has not said how many extra troops in total will be brought in, an estimated 30,000 soldiers are currently in the province. They are up against 5,000 poorly-armed rebels.


    Indonesian Social Affairs Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah said some 100,000 people are expected to flee their homes compared to 10,000 displaced currently.


    The GAM spokesman called for a general strike from Monday and urged industries such as ExxonMobil's Arun natural gas plant to shut down.


    "We don't want to attack vital projects but if the military or police who guard the projects make a sweeping (search for rebels), we will attack military or police there."


    Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said security has been increased at the US oil giant's facilities. "The government guarantees that production will not stop."


    The strike call appeared to have been largely ignored in Banda

    Aceh, with stores and schools still open and public transport





    Indonesian tanks roll past
    residents of Aceh

    Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Elwi Shihab, speaking to Aljazeera, said that the “situation is getting worse” and that “Indonesians feel sorry about the failure of the Tokyo talks.”


    “We don’t know how the Indonesian military choice will end,” Shihab said. “We wished the Ache side had been more flexible and willing to negotiate; granting independence is out of the question for the Indonesian government.”


    “All Muslim and non-Muslim countries support Indonesia in the peace solution. Thus, there is no fear of any foreign interference.”

    Rebel leader Mahmood Malik said he believed the Indonesian government had no intention of compromising from the start of the weekend talks, and was "looking for a way to declare war".

    "They asked us to abandon our independence. They asked us to surrender. We will oppose the onslaught. We will fight for independence," he warned.

    But in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh many expressed indifference about the decision to reignite a decades-old war after the failure of weekend peace talks in Tokyo.


    "I didn't know we were under martial law. I don't care which side wins as long as I can find a bowl of rice today," said labourer Faisal, as he unloaded tomatoes and cabbages at the central market behind the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque.


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