Indonesia asks Aceh monitors to pull out

Indonesia’s military on Wednesday pursued separatist rebels in Aceh after a bloody ambush which cost the lives of seven soldiers, and told international peace monitors to pull out of the province.

Indonesia wants foreigners out
of Aceh 

Martial law administrator Major General Endang Suwarya said the Swiss-based mediators and the Henry Dunant Centre should quit the province immediately.


A military spokesman meanwhile said, “We are continuing our pursuit of the rebels.”


Indonesia also announced it would ban foreign tourists from Aceh and review the presence of non-governmental organisations and foreign journalists for their own safety.


The Dunant Centre brokered a peace deal that lasted five months, but which gradually fell apart.


Its Aceh-based representative David Gorman, currently taking two weeks’ vacation in Geneva, said he would hold talks with the government on his return about the status of the Centre and of a Joint Security Committee, which had monitored the cease-fire.


Indonesia’s state-appointed National Commission on Human Rights, which sent a fact-finding team to Aceh, reported a variety of rights abuses.


Support for military


These included the burning of almost 500 schools, summary killings, arbitrary arrests, the torture of unarmed civilians, sexual harassment and forced displacement.


But team leader MM Billah did not say who was responsible for the abuses. He said a follow-up team would be sent.


Billah said the team obtained information that armed groups recruited from non-Acehnese civilians have been supporting the military offensive.


Troops late on Monday and Tuesday suffered their worst casualty toll of the offensive when seven soldiers died and seven were injured in an ambush at Matang Kumbang in Bireuen district.


The rebels attacked a truck convoy with a hand grenade and retreated to a hilltop. The remaining soldiers launched an uphill attack against the rebel position and killed five guerrillas including a woman fighter.