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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Separatist violence grips Aceh

The violence in Aceh is one of several conflicts besieging Indonesia

By the BBC's Clare Doyle

Reports from Indonesia say at least 31 people were killed over the weekend in the troubled province of Aceh, but confusion surrounds the deaths and the victims themselves.

The Indonesian military, local witnesses and human rights activists have given widely differing accounts of how the killings took place and who died.

All that is known for certain is that 31 people were killed early on Saturday in a remote village in the mountains of western Aceh.

But while the military say those killed were separatist rebels who were preparing to attack the army, the rebel Free Aceh movement and local witnesses said the victims were unarmed civilians who were captured and shot by the military.

Religious figure

All sides agree that a former political prisoner, Tengku Bantaqiah, was among those killed.

[ image: The army has warned that it will not tolerate separatism]
The army has warned that it will not tolerate separatism
But while the army said Mr Bantaqiah was the leader of a group of rebels, local people described him as a religious figure who ran a boarding school.

They said the killings took place when the army went to the school, ordered Mr Bantaqiah to go outside with some of his students and shot them dead.

These latest killings come after the Indonesian army warned that it would not tolerate armed separatism in Aceh, where at least eight soldiers have been killed by rebels in the last few weeks.


The deaths are the latest outbreak of violence in Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, where a separatist insurgency has raged for decades.

Escalating violence since May has driven more than 80,000 people from their homes, and thousands of children are reported to be suffering from malnutrition.

Indonesian officials and human rights workers met in Bangkok on Saturday for talks on the deteriorating situation in the province.

They called on the authorities in Jakarta to negotiate for peace with the rebels - something the government says it will not do.

These killings must make the prospects for a peaceful solution in Aceh even worse.

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