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Rebels Blamed for Indonesian Fire

August 21, 1999

LHOKSEUMAWE, Indonesia (AP) _ Government forces boosted security Saturday around a natural gas field in northern Sumatra after arsonists set fire to a building in the compound.

Police blamed the fire, which broke out late Friday, on guerrillas operating in the area. But a rebel leader denied responsibility and claimed government security forces started it to justify an ongoing crackdown.

No injuries were reported in the fire at a warehouse in the Arun gas field in North Aceh, some 1,100 miles northwest of Jakarta. The field is operated and partly owned by Mobil Corp., the American oil company based in Fairfax, Va.

Hundreds of people have died so far this year in fighting between government troops and rebels of the Free Aceh Movement. The rebels want to set up an independent Islamic state in the oil- and gas-rich region on Sumatra’s northwestern tip.

Earlier this month, the separatists threatened to blow up the giant Arun natural gas refinery in Lhokseumawe, one of the largest in the world. The $2.5 billion plant is heavily defended by Indonesian troops.

Update hourly