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Officials say al-Qaida operatives visited Aceh JAKARTA - A military commander acknowledged a visit last year by a senior al-Qaida operative to Indonesia's troubled Aceh province, but separatist rebels there on Thursday denied any links with the terrorist group. An aide to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden arrived in Aceh in 2001, but the visit did not result in an al-Qaida presence in the province, said Maj Gen Djali Jusuf, the province's army chief, according to The Jakarta Post daily.
The general could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but the rebels of the Free Aceh Movement rejected suggestions that they had contacts with al-Qaida. "We hereby categorically state that there has never been and will never be any contact between our organization and al-Qaida or any other organizations that deal with terrorism," said a statement issued by the movement's leadership in Norsborg, Sweden. The group branded as "cheap propaganda" a recent report by the Cable News Network that said bin Laden's chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, visited Aceh two years ago.
Indonesian officials insist that al-Qaida has not established a foothold in the world's largest Muslim nation. But neighboring Singapore has alleged that Indonesia serves as a base for Jemaah Islamiya, a group allegedly linked to al-Qaida and accused of plotting attacks against Western interests in Southeast Asia.
Unconfirmed reports about an al-Qaida visit to Aceh, a province of four million people on the northern tip of Sumatra island, first surfaced in the middle of last year. At the time, representatives of the separatist Free Aceh Movement claimed that two envoys from the Middle East had spent several days there but had departed after unsuccessful efforts to establish ties with local Muslims.
The rebels said they did not want to have anything to do with al-Qaida because they are fighting for an independent state and Islam was not a factor in the struggle. Thousands of people have died in the 26-year war between government troops and the insurgents in the province.



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 12 July 2002 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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