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Page last updated at 04:46 GMT, Saturday, 11 October 2008 05:46 UK

Aceh guerrilla leader flies home

Hasan di Tiro waves to supporters after his plane touches down in Banda Aceh, 11 October 2008
Security had been stepped up in Banda Aceh ahead of di Tiro's arrival

The founder of the separatist rebel movement in the Indonesian province of Aceh, Hasan di Tiro, has flown home after 30 years in exile.

Thousands of former rebels have flocked to Banda Aceh to welcome him home.

Hasan di Tiro founded the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) in 1976, but was forced to flee the country three years later.

Aides say di Tiro, who is now 83, simply wants to see Aceh and visit relatives, but security was stepped up ahead of his arrival.

Gam signed a peace-deal in 2005 to end a 29-year conflict that killed 15,000.

The peace deal with Indonesia's government - which resulted in Aceh's autonomy - followed the devastation of the 2004 Asian tsunami.

Mr di Tiro's visit has been greeted with elation on the streets, says the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Aceh, although most of those whose gathered ahead of his arrival are too young to remember him.

The trip has been organised by di Tiro's former separatist colleagues, who are now campaigning under the banner of new political parties for parliamentary elections next year.

A Gam spokesman for the former rebels says the forthcoming elections are not the reason for the visit, but the election campaign has highlighted old divisions in the province.

Mr di Tiro called on Acehnese to support peace. The run up to next year's elections are likely to fuel tensions in the province, and our correspondent says many will be watching to see what impact Mr di Tiro will have on its new political map.


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SEE ALSO
Ex-rebel becomes Aceh governor
08 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Peace monitors end Aceh mission
15 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Aceh votes for major change
12 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Indonesia
07 Aug 08 |  Country profiles

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