Indonesian troops raise Aceh toll

Indonesian troops have shot five separatists dead and captured 18 others in Aceh province.

    Nearly four Acehans have been shot daily over the past year

    The five rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) were killed in four separate clashes in Pidie, South Aceh and East Aceh over the past 48 hours.

    Provincial military spokesman Asep Sapari said 18 arrests were also made during several raids on suspected hideouts over the past two days.

    Several grenade launchers, four firearms and about 500 bullets were seized after the raids and clashes.
      
    Military achievement?

    The military says it has killed more than 1300 rebels in an offensive launched last May and arrested more than 2000.
      
    Major General Endang Suwarya believes his forces have eliminated nearly 60% of the rebel militias and their local supporters.

    About 2000 Acehans are
    currently held in custody

    Suwarya added his soldiers had rescued 124 people held hostage by GAM guerrillas since last May's start of a major military offensive to crush the rebels, but 260 civilians were still detained. 
      
    The rebel operations commander in East Aceh, Ishak Daud, rejected there had been a severe drop in GAM's numbers. "In war there are retreats, and there are advances."
         
    Decades-old conflict

    GAM has been fighting since 1976 for independence for the resource-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra island.
      
    The US State Department, in a report released last month, said: "unlawful killings, beatings, and torture by soldiers, police, and rebels were common" in Aceh last year.
      
    "In many cases, the victims were not combatants but civilians," it said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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