Rebels, soldier killed in Aceh violence

At least 19 people are reported to have died in violence in Indonesia's troubled Aceh province.

    Indonesia's military is accused of widespread abuses

    The bloodshed

    mounted over the weekend before a key review of military operations to crush a

    long-running separatist struggle.

    One soldier and 10 rebels were killed in separate clashes on Sunday

    , said Aceh military spokesman Ari Mulya Asnawi, while

    Indonesian troops claimed to have killed eight suspected rebels in five encounters a

    day earlier.

    If confirmed, the latest deaths follow one of the bloodiest weeks for the Free

    Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels since the May 2003 launch of a government

    offensive to end their 28-year fight.

    Clashes saw 17 rebel fighters die

    on Thursday and Friday, according to the Indonesian mliitary.

    Later this month Indonesia's government under new President

    Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must decide whether to renew a six-month

    civilian state of emergency which followed a year of martial law in

    the impoverished region.

    Conflict

    Yudhoyono, who helped negotiate a failed peace deal in Aceh as

    security minister under his predecessor Megawati Sukarnoputri, has

    pledged to end conflict in the province.

    In Sunday's violence, one soldier was killed and another hurt

    when their patrol was ambushed, Asnawi said.

    GAM rebels are fighting for an
    independent state in Aceh

    Troops also killed six suspected rebels in a clash on the same

    day, while retreating rebels wounded a teenager and an infant in

    random fire.

    Separately, two rebels were killed in a raid on a suspected

    hideout in the province's north on Sunday, while two other rebels

    were shot dead in two further encounters in a

    neighbouring district, Asnawi said.

    Meanwhile, security minister Widodo Adi Sucipto and national

    police chief Dai Bachtiar visited provincial

    capital Banda Aceh on Monday

    for talks with officials before the 19 

    November state of emergency review.

    Speaking after the meeting, Widodo said the visit

    was to evaluate the civilian

    emergency status.

    Abuse fears

    He said "better" security had been reached but

    rebel forces were still a threat.

    Death tolls issued by security forces show more than 2300 rebels

    have been killed since the start of the May 2003

    offensive in Aceh, a resource-rich region at the north-western tip of

    Sumatra island.

    Yudhoyono has pledged to end
    the conflict in Aceh

    Human rights activists say many of those killed were ordinary

    civilians.

    New-York-based Human Rights Watch published a report in September

    detailing the "systematic use of torture against detainees in Aceh by Indonesian security forces".

    Major General Sudrajat, Director-General of Defence Strategy, said the accusations were baseless, but added: "If there is proof of such torture, the Indonesian Ministry of Defence will take stern measures against personnel who have allegedly tortured GAM prisoners."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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