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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
UN fears for Aceh civilians
Indonesian soldier in Aceh
Hundreds of villagers have fled the crackdown
The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has said he is "deeply concerned" about the impact on civilians of renewed hostilities in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

Mr Annan said in a statement that he was particularly worried by reports of extra-judicial killings and the widespread burning of schools.

He urged both the separatist rebels and the Indonesian military fighting in the 12-day-old conflict to protect civilians, and called on the Indonesian Government to ensure that international aid organisations had safe access to those in need.

The Indonesian military said on Thursday that more than 100 people had been killed during its offensive against the rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (Gam), including 14 civilians.

The rebels often dispute government casualty figures. They have previously accused the military of atrocities against villagers, a claim the Indonesian forces have strongly denied.

Sweden's ambassador to Indonesia said on Friday that Stockholm could not carry out Jakarta's request to arrest four Gam leaders in exile in the Swedish capital, according to the Associated Press.

The ambassador, Harald Sandberg, said his country was unable to comply with the request because the men were Swedish citizens.

'On track'

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Yani Basuki said on Thursday that fire-fights were continuing across Aceh.

About 40,000 government troops are currently in Aceh, aiming to crush an estimated 5,000 rebel fighters.

Despite the army's greater numbers and firepower, correspondents say they may find it difficult to identify Gam fighters, who can melt easily into the civilian population.

The government said on Wednesday that the military operation was "on track", and was even moving faster than expected.

"Some targets have been achieved in the first 10 days. Of course there's still so much to do," said senior security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The military offensive began when talks to save last December's peace deal finally broke down last Monday.

The deal was designed to bring an end to 26 years of fighting, in a separatist conflict that has killed more than 12,000 people.

When the crackdown started, the Acehnese people saw the prices of staple foods increase dramatically as food distribution was disrupted and trucks carrying food supplies were attacked en route to the province.

More than 21,000 people are reported to have fled their homes as a result of the violence, especially in eastern areas which are experiencing heavy gunfights almost every day.

United Nations educational and health aid has now begun arriving in the Acehnese capital Banda Aceh, to be distributed throughout the province.




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