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Fresh clashes in Aceh, curfews possible BANDA ACEH - Indonesian troops fought rebels across six different parts of jungle-clad Aceh province on Thursday, as officers considered imposing night curfews on flashpoints in the region. The military said it had killed several more separatists on Thursday, taking the total since Monday to 16. It said a district rebel commander had also surrendered on Wednesday, the second senior separatist to do so in a week.
"There have been six clashes today...some are still going on. At all times we can intensify the operations because we have no mercy toward these separatists," Aceh military chief Major General Endang Suwarya said in the provincial capital Banda Aceh. A spokesman for the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which began fighting for independence in 1976, insisted no separatists had been killed and accused the military of murdering nearly 50 civilians. The military denied killing non-combatants.
The military, which launched its biggest offensive since the 1975 invasion of East Timor following the collapse of last-ditch peace talks in Tokyo, said it was considering slapping curfews on Pidie and Bireun districts, both separatist strongholds. "Violence has risen in both those places. It would make it easier for our operations...to impose a curfew," said Firdaus Komarno, military spokesman in the oil and gas-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra island.
In Jakarta, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda went on the defensive in the face of international concern, telling foreign envoys Indonesia's territorial integrity was at stake. "It is they who speak the language of force and terror," he said, blaming the rebels for the unravelling of a five-month-old peace pact. Mediators say Jakarta sank the weekend Tokyo talks. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the 27-year war but casualty claims are traditionally hotly disputed.

Bodies brought to hospital

One hospital official in Banda Aceh said the military had brought in nine dead bodies riddled with bullets since Monday. Some, he said, looked like civilians. "Almost 50 civilians have been killed by the military," said a GAM spokesman, speaking from an undisclosed location. He could offer no eyewitness accounts of troops doing the killing.
The military said it had killed 16 rebels and captured nine in the campaign so far, with one soldier killed and six wounded. Suwarya said the Thursday clashes had been in East Aceh, West Aceh, a region near Banda Aceh and an isle just off the capital. The military said one district rebel commander, Teuku Ali Said from western Aceh, had surrendered on Wednesday. Last week a more senior rebel commander defected.
Damien Kingsbury, an expert on the Indonesian military from Australia's Deakin University, said the defections were not too significant, adding that with a long conflict likely some would be assessing whether it was worth the cost of fighting on. "It's not entirely surprising, this is a big operation, it is ultimately going to be very, very destructive," he said.
Officials said schools were still being torched, with about 290 schools gutted since Monday, affecting more than 60,000 students. The two sides have traded accusations over the arson, and the military has threatened to shoot perpetrators on sight.



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 22 May 2003 00:05 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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