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Jakarta sends more troops to Aceh JAKARTA - Indonesia says it has sent hundreds more troops to support its attack on separatist rebels in Aceh, amid reports of a mounting death toll from the four-day-old offensive. The military says 325 military policemen and about 300 men from support units have left for Aceh aboard two warships. Indonesia launched its biggest military operation in a quarter-century on Monday to try to wipe out the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) following the breakdown of last-ditch peace talks in Tokyo over the weekend.
There have been no reports of major pitched battles but witnesses have reported an increasing death toll. AFP news agency reports residents say the military killed a total of 18 people in two villages in strife-torn North Aceh yesterday. AFP staff saw 11 of the bodies. It was not possible to determine whether they had been GAM members. Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Yani Basuki confirmed troops killed 10 people in one of the villages but said they were rebels.
He said he had no information from the other village. Colonel Basuki says the rebels died in a clash which broke out after a suspected GAM member fled following his detention by troops. Crack troops have been deployed to guard schools and other public buildings after a wave of arson attacks on schools began on Monday. Education official Anaz Muhammad Adam says 248 schools had been torched as of Wednesday evening, mostly in the rebel strongholds of Pidie and Bireuen in North Aceh.
The army says GAM is trying to divert government troops from combat operations to guard duties. The rebels deny responsibility for the arson. The United Nations humanitarian office appealed to all parties to spare schools and said it would send 300 emergency school kits and 50 tents to the province on Sumatra island. The government also said it was sending tents for use as temporary classrooms.
Martial law chief administrator Major General Endang Suwarya says rebels set fire to a local state broadcasting station in addition to the schools. He ordered his men to shoot arsonists on sight. The rebels have waged a 27-year battle for independence in which some 10,000 people have been killed. Jakarta says GAM's refusal at the talks in Tokyo to drop its independence demand prompted the assault.
Up to 30,000 troops plus 10,000 police are confronting some 5,000 guerrillas. Aircraft and warships are also deployed.



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 22 May 2003 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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