Indonesian president to visit Aceh

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will make his first visit later this week to Aceh province where his troops are involved in a major campaign against separatist fighters.

    Susilo will hold talks with Acehnese community leaders

    The announcement of Friday's planned visit came as the military said troops had shot and killed eight Free Aceh Movement (GAM) fighters in the past two days.
     
    Four of the eight were killed in separate raids in the districts of Bireuen and East Aceh on Tuesday, while the others died on Monday, said Aceh military spokesman Ari Mulya Asnawi on Wednesday. 

    Twenty-two other separatists had surrendered to the authorities since Monday, he said in provincial capital Banda Aceh.

    Susilo's scheduled trip also coincided with the revocation on Tuesday of travel restrictions on three additional districts in Aceh by state of emergency chief administrator Bachrumsyah Kasman.

    The districts of Aceh Singkil, Gayo Lues and Aceh Tenggara - which border the Leuser National Park - would be reopened for investors, tourists and non-governmental organisations, Kasman said.

    Two other districts opened for visitors are the port town of Sabang and Simelue.

    Martial law

    Susilo will leave Jakarta early on Friday for Banda Aceh where he is scheduled to hold talks with Acehnese religious and community leaders, said Garibaldi Sujatmiko, head of the presidential press bureau.

    Aceh's state of emergency has
    been extended by six months

    The trip to Aceh will be Susilo's first as president after he took office last month.

    The former general last week extended a state of emergency in Aceh for another six months.

    A military campaign against GAM separatists - who have been fighting since 1976 for independence - has been going on in the province for about 18 months.

    Under the emergency, which replaced martial law, civilian authorities keep control, but can order press censorship, curfews and other restrictions.
     
    The military says thousands have been killed or have surrendered since the operation was launched. Human rights groups say many of the casualties have been civilians. 

    SOURCE: AFP


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