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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 May, 2004, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
Aceh rebels release two hostages
Indonesian local TV cameraman sits on a wheelchair after being released by Aceh separatist rebels
Ferry Santoro said he was healthy but tired
Separatist rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh have freed two hostages including an Indonesian cameraman held for nearly a year.

Ferry Santoro was pictured waving from a wheelchair after he was freed close to the district capital Langsa.

It came a day after the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) released 22 captives from among 200 people detained over the last year.

Martial law is to be lifted in Aceh on Wednesday, a year after it was imposed.

The hostages were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"We had to walk for two days and two nights and we just met with the ICRC vehicle," Mr Santoro told the AFP news agency shortly after his release.

"I am happy. I am healthy but tired. We did not get much rest."

End to martial law

Mr Santoro and his journalist colleague Ersa Siregar were captured last June along with the wives of two soldiers. Mr Siregar was killed in a shoot-out between the rebels and government troops in December, and the two women were rescued in January.

Mr Santoro was taken to a local hospital following his release.

The identity of the second man released was not immediately known.

Gam has refused to describe the detainees as hostages, some of whom they suspect of spying for the military.

From 19 May, martial law in the province is to be downgraded to a state of civil emergency, according to a government spokesman.

But government troops will remain in the area, and the authorities will still have the power to impose curfews, house searches and indefinite detentions.

The crackdown against the separatists began when Jakarta abandoned an internationally sponsored peace process aimed at ending the conflict, which has been going on for 27 years.

The Indonesian military says it has killed about 2,000 members of Gam, and captured 3,000 others, since last May.

But human rights groups say most of the dead are innocent Acehnese civilians.

Precise information is difficult to obtain, as foreign media and non-governmental agencies are largely prevented from working in Aceh.


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