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Aceh peace monitors to withdraw to local capital BANDA ACEH - Indonesia's peace pact in Aceh suffered major blows on Tuesday when nine people were reported killed and peace monitors separately ordered their teams across the province to withdraw to the local capital. A police official said the nine were killed by Indonesian police and military in four incidents, and included one member of the separatist Free Aceh movement (GAM).
"They were extorting money, and started shooting police who were patrolling in the areas," said Lt Col Mariyanto, police chief in Pidie district some 75 km (47 miles) southeast of Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. "One is a GAM member who killed one of my subordinates last year," he told Reuters by telephone. "The eight others were criminals who carried illegal weapons."
GAM spokesman Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba said four out of the nine were GAM members, one was a civilian, and the four others had not been identified yet. David Gorman, Indonesia head of the Henry Dunant Centre, which brokered a four-month-old peace deal between GAM and the Indonesian government, said he had not had confirmation of the killings but thought that if true they would mark the most violent day since the agreement was reached.
Earlier in the day, Gorman had said about 100 peace monitors were withdrawing to Banda Aceh, 1,700 km (1,060) miles northwest of Jakarta, following attacks and protests against four monitoring offices since Sunday. The move came amid growing fears among diplomats that the pact, aimed at stopping fighting that has simmered for decades and taken thousands of lives, is unravelling.
Gorman said the monitors would stay in Banda Aceh until a review of the security situation had been completed. "The Joint Security Committee will temporarily relocate its field-based monitoring teams to its Banda Aceh headquarters to ensure their safety," Gorman said, referring to the committee that supervises the landmark agreement.
The committee comprises independent foreign monitors -- made up of Thai and Filipino soldiers -- along with representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and government troops. Gorman said all the recent incidents against the teams had been well-organised. One diplomat who has been following the process said they appeared to have been carried out by people who sympathised with the government.
On Sunday, 300 Acehnese torched one peace monitoring office in east Aceh, while on Monday, 750 people besieged a facility in south Aceh demanding the monitoring team leave. Also on Monday, 40 police from an elite unit occupied an office in northern Aceh, kicking a rebel on the monitoring team, the Henry Dunant Centre said. In the last incident, anti-GAM and anti-JSC posters were plastered on another office. There are 13 monitoring offices, including the torched one.

Who is behind the Attacks?

Gorman said the monitors would return to Banda Aceh over the next three days. Asked if the incidents were part of an organised campaign to wreck the peace deal, he said: "It's clear these demonstrations, threats and attacks against the teams are organised and they all have a consistent message. That message has been anti-GAM, anti-JSC and anti-peace process." He declined to elaborate.
Indonesia's cabinet decided on Monday to stick with the agreement, although one option put forward had been to scrap the deal and relaunch military operations against rebels there. Otto Syamsuddin Ishak, an expert on Aceh, accused the military of trying to sideline the peace monitors. "This is a systematic process in the short term to isolate the JSC, done by the TNI," he said, using the military's acronym.
He said while the rebels and Acehnese people wanted the Aceh problem internationalised, the government did not. Military officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but in the past have denied charges they were trying to derail the agreement. The government has criticised the attacks and said it was fighting to save the peace process.
"Indonesia never tolerates violence or the taking of the law into one's own hands like what the residents did," chief security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in Jakarta, speaking before the decision to pull back the monitors. "We love peace, but that does not mean we don't love our national integrity and national sovereignity."
Despite the pact, the rebels still want independence while the government will go no further than special autonomy. Aceh is one of Indonesia's two separatist hot spots. The other is Papua province in the country's remote east.

Posted in Aceh conflict @ 09 April 2003 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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