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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 15:33 GMT
Aceh exile returns after 25 years
Bakhtiar Abdullah returns from exile to Aceh
Other Gam leaders have chosen to remain abroad for now
Exiled Aceh separatist leader, Bakhtiar Abdullah, has returned to the territory under the peace process with the Indonesian government.

"I'm at a loss for words," said Mr Abdullah, as he stepped off his plane in Banda Aceh after flying from Sweden.

He is visiting for the first time in 25 years to see the process for himself.

Other leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) have declined to return to the tsunami-ravaged province, citing security concerns.

A landmark peace deal signed in August aims to end 30 years of fighting in the province and includes a commitment to helping Gam fighters reintegrate into society while the movement itself becomes a political party.

Map of Indonesia
Gam gives up all 840 of its weapons in four stages
Government matches that by withdrawing some 24,000 troops in four stages
Disarmament and withdrawal to be complete by 31 December
Government facilitates Aceh-based political parties
Amnesty granted to Gam members
Truth and reconciliation commission established
Aceh monitoring mission set up by EU and Asean

The peace process, said Mr Abdullah, was running "smoothly... beyond expectations" but he planned to stay 60 days on the ground to monitor the situation.

Asked if he might stand in provincial elections, he was quoted by Reuters news agency as laughing off the question with the words "later, later".

Scores of monitors from the European Union and South-East Asia are currently covering the cease-fire in Aceh, under which Gam fighters are to disarm and government troops to withdraw partially.

Pieter Feith, who heads the Aceh Monitoring Mission, earlier this month urged exiled Gam leaders to return, saying they could play an important role in province.

Gam leaders Malik Mahmood, Zaini Abdullah and Gam founder Hasan di Tiro also live in exile in Sweden.

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