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
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.


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 anindependent state in Aceh

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 endthe conflict in Aceh

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 : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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