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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Former Aceh rebels visit homeland
Acehnese former rebel leaders Malik Mahmud and Zaini Abdullah
Most of the Gam leaders were returning for the first time
Leaders of the former rebel movement in the Indonesian province of Aceh are visiting home after 30 years in exile.

Former self-proclaimed Prime Minister Malik Mahmud applauded their "historical" visit and told followers that it was "time to build Aceh again".

Their return follows the peace deal signed last year with the Indonesian government, aimed at ending a conflict which claimed some 15,000 lives.

But the group does not include founder Hasan di Tiro, who is in ill health.

Gam gives up all 840 of its weapons in four stages
Government withdraws some 24,000 troops in four stages
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 nine visiting leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (Gam), were greeted by dozens of former fighters and a troupe of traditional dancers when they arrived at the airport close to the capital, Banda Aceh.

They have been based in exile in Sweden since 1976, when they declared independence from Indonesia.

They said they had come to see how the peace deal was being implemented, and to pray at the graves of the Acehnese victims of the Asian tsunami of late 2004.

The peace deal was signed amid goodwill generated by the devastating tsunami. So far some 20,000 Indonesian soldiers and 5,000 police have been withdrawn, in exchange for rebels laying down their arms.

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