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Sidney Jones, Human Rights Watch
"It is not at all clear that the president has any control over the security forces in Aceh"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 May, 2001, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
'Civilians killed' as army sweeps Aceh
Indonesian soldiers in Aceh
The government has poured troops into the troubled province
At least seven people have been killed in the Indonesian province of Aceh as government forces step up operations to hunt down separatist rebels, residents and rebels have said.

More than 10 truck-loads of soldiers have carried out sweeps of several villages in Tanah Luas sub-district in North Aceh to track down members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), according to GAM spokesman Tengku Amni bin Ahmad Marzuki.

Aceh map
On Sunday, a joint military-police operation to find a GAM base in Ujong Reuba in the North Aceh sub-district of Meurah Mulia resulted in a clash with rebels but there were no casualties, Mr Amni said.

But three civilians, including a 60-year-old farmer, were shot dead during the ensuing security sweep in the area, he added.

The farmer was shot while he was working in his field while the other two were shot as they were passing on a motorbike.

The security forces also torched 29 houses and damaged 10 others, Mr Amni claimed.

Attempted to run

Two civilians who attempted to run away when their car was stopped for an identity check in the East Aceh town of Langsa on Sunday were shot dead, police spokesman Adjunct Senior Commissioner Sad Harunantyo said.

A third man escaped, he added.

In West Aceh, police shot dead two civilians who were riding a motorcycle in Balang Geureuh, in the Seunagan sub-district on Sunday, residents said.

But West Aceh Police Chief Adjunct Senior Commissioner Her Aris Sumarman refuted this saying that the two were killed during an ambush on a police patrol there.

Meanwhile, two sub-district administration offices were torched by unknown groups in West Aceh's Setiabakti and Teunom sub-districts, the West Aceh regional secretary Nyak Ali Umar said. There were no casualties.

Vital fuel supplies

Jakarta has been stepping up military operations in Aceh in the past weeks, especially in North Aceh which is home to the huge Arun gas field where oil and gas operations have been temporarily halted amid security concerns.

The government has poured in troops and police to safeguard the area and allow it to resume its oil and gas operations.

The stoppage has already caused heavy losses in revenues to the government.

GAM has been fighting for a free and Islamic state in Aceh since the mid-1970s.

Jakarta sent 1,100 fresh troops to Aceh last month to launch a security operation against the GAM, after a year of talks between the government and rebels which resulted in a series of shaky truces between the two sides.

But the truces failed to curtail the violence which has claimed more than 500 lives this year.

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See also:

30 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Murder and rape in Aceh
18 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Violence spirals in troubled Aceh
13 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's fragile archipelago
06 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Wahid's many problems
07 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesian activists under attack
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