Indonesia probes Aceh military killings

The Indonesian military is investigating reports that its soldiers had killed civilians during the ongoing operation to crush separatist rebels in Aceh province.


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    A military spokesman said two soldiers and two journalists from the respected Indonesian publication “Tempo” had begun their investigation on Saturday.
    The probe was sparked by media reports of killings on Wednesday, in a cluster of villages near Bireuen town. 

    "This is a response to media reactions which made it seem as if they were civilians. And we don't close the possibility that if our frontline troops made a mistake and gave false reports, just wait. They will be brought to the military justice system," the spokesman said.

    But he warned that if the investigation showed the media reports were not true and based on unclear sources “the martial law legal process will be put into effect according to the authority it has." 

    New ID cards

    Meanwhile, Indonesia has ordered all civilians in Aceh to get new identification cards as fighting and turmoil in the province continued.

    The move is aimed at stopping separatist rebels blending in with the population.
    "This is for the sake of the people to normalise the situation in parts of Aceh," a military spokesman said.

    Aceh children suffer fight

    "The ID card will have signatures from the local region, the local police and the local military," he said. It was not clear when the new cards would be introduced.
    Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels have in recent days been confiscating people's old identification cards, the police said.
    The new cards will, in theory, make it easier for authorities to weed out rebels - who will be lacking proper identification - trying to blend in with civilians. 

    Children affected

    An estimated 280 schools have been burnt down, or otherwise destroyed in four days of fighting between Indonesian troops and Aceh separatist rebels, the United Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said here on Friday.
    "Sixty thousand children have thus been deprived of schooling. We are launching an appeal to the warring parties to protect the rights of children as well as the education system," a UNICEF spokesman said. 
    An estimated 23,000 children are among the 150,000 people displaced by the latest fighting, the spokesman said, adding that basic health services had been destroyed. 

    Indonesia on Monday launched its biggest military operation, since 1976, to try to wipe out the GAM following the breakdown of last-ditch peace talks in Tokyo over the weekend.   


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