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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Aceh violence 'threatens US ties'
Indonesian police
A civil emergency may be declared in the province
Indonesian soldiers have shot dead six men and one woman from Aceh's rebel separatist movement.

Renewed clashes in the troubled Indonesian province over the past few days have also claimed the lives of three civilians in a grenade blast, and three more rebels, officials said.

Map of Indonesia showing Aceh
Indonesia's Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is visiting the northern province to decide whether to institute tougher measures to end the 26-year-long separatist insurgency.

But an American official in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, warned that the spiralling violence could harm attempts to restore full military ties between the two countries.

Emergency talks

The seven rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) were killed when government troops raided a rebel camp in eastern Aceh, a military spokesman said.

"After a 15-minute gun battle, troops combed the area and found one woman and six men dead," he said.

A spokesman for the separatists confirmed to the Associated Press news agency that several fighters had been killed, but said soldiers had also been killed in the exchange.

The recent deaths came as Mr Yudhoyono holds talks to decide whether to declare a civil emergency - one step from martial law.


This could disrupt very sensitive efforts to deal with the military to military relationship

US official

Last week, Mr Yudhoyono labelled GAM as "terrorists" in what analysts said could be a hardening of the government's attitude against the separatists.

But at the beginning of his week-long visit to Aceh, the security minister said peace talks could continue, but armed violence would not be tolerated.

On Wednesday, Mr Yudhoyono was due to discuss the security situation with the province's police and military chiefs.

Any increase in military involvement in Aceh could harm attempts to strengthen ties between Indonesia and the US, an American official warned.

US Congress unimpressed

Before full military ties can be restored, the US Congress must agree that Indonesia has done enough to account for what happened in East Timor when pro-Jakarta militias battled those seeking independence.

The unnamed senior US official in Jakarta said a rising death toll or military action in Aceh would not be welcomed by legislators in Washington.

"This could disrupt very sensitive efforts to deal with the military-to-military relationship," he said, according to Reuters news agency.

Fresh separatist violence occurs almost daily in the province of Aceh with the death toll from 26 years of fighting estimated to be more than 10,000.

Various ceasefires have been agreed but never held.



See also:

09 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
20 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
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