BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) _ Indonesian police Monday forcibly removed hundreds of separatist flags, as rebels in Aceh province marked the anniversary of their independence struggle by vowing to intensify the 24-year-long war.

Police shot at and then tore down rebel flags hoisted secretly overnight along main roads, villagers said.

Police said an officer was shot to death and another injured in a gunbattle with rebels in the north of the province on Monday.

Supt. Kusbini of the police-military task force said the Free Aceh Movement also gunned down a motorcyclist east of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh and attacked three military outposts, injuring three officers. But witnesses said security forces had gunned down a motorcyclist.

Authorities have warned they would crack down on any public celebrations marking Dec. 4, 1976, the day when separatists unilaterally declared the province's independence from Indonesia.

Since then, efforts to suppress the insurgents have largely backfired. Although at least 5,500 people have died as a result of the war during the past decade, the separatists have managed to attract wide public support in the province of 4.1 million people.

Rebels maintain that the region on the northern tip of Sumatra island has become a virtual colony of Indonesia's dominant island of Java. They claim that Aceh's substantial oil and natural gas reserves have been exploited by Jakarta's political and military elite and that few benefits have returned to the region.

``We will never bow, let alone capitulate to the colonialist state of Indonesia,'' rebel leader Hasan di Tiro, who lives in exile in Sweden, said in a statement.

Indonesia's leaders have consistently ruled out demands for an independent Aceh, fearing it would lead to the disintegration of the sprawling, ethnically diverse Southeast Asian nation.

President Abdurrahman Wahid has instead offered the staunchly Muslim province wide-ranging autonomy and the possibility of introducing Islamic sharia law. On Saturday, Wahid announced a $10.5 million emergency development package for the region in an apparent bid to counter pro-independence sentiments.