Martial law lifted from Aceh

Indonesia has lifted martial law from Aceh, but its 40,000 troops will continue to be in the troubled province in an attempt to quell separatist rebels.

    Indonesian forces have been fighting GAM rebels

    A year after it was imposed, Jakarta on Tuesday ended martial law and handed power in the battle-scarred region back to civilians.

    But there was little or no signs that either the insurgency or the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) had been quelled.

    In May last year, Indonesia launched a fresh military offensive against the GAM after peace talks with the rebels failed to yield results.

    Tough insurgents

    The GAM, however, survived despite suffering setbacks in the face of the army's offensive.

    "GAM has most of its leadership structure intact. It's been hurt at the lower level and it has been significantly pushed out of villages into the jungle, but it is far from defeated," said Sidney Jones, Indonesia representative of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

    GAM has been spearheading a movement for Aceh's independence from Indonesian rule. The separatists demand first surfaced in 1970s, resulting in an armed conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives so far.

    The military says it has killed about 2000 GAM members and captured 3000 others since the current offensive started.

    But human rights groups say tough military tactics during the year-long martial law may have alienated more Acehnese.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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