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Indonesia Vows To Fight Insurgency

December 5, 2000

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) _ Indonesia vowed Tuesday to suppress a growing insurgency in the Aceh province, where at least 15 people were killed a day earlier in clashes on the 24th anniversary of a separatist war.

``Any action that threatens the unity of the state will be met with repressive force,″ Defense Minister Mohammad Mahfud told reporters in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

Hundreds of armed guerrillas took part in ceremonies throughout Aceh on Monday to commemorate Dec. 4, 1976, the day when separatists unilaterally declared its independence from Indonesia. At least 5,500 people have died in fighting in the past decade.

An army unit shot six suspected rebels to death in Setia Bakti, in the western part of the province, Lt. Col. Bambang Prasetio said. He said they had attempted to ambush the soldiers. A local separatist spokesman claimed the victims, including two women, were unarmed villagers.

In northern Aceh, three guerrillas and a soldier died when rebels attacked an army patrol, police and rebels said. Five other victims, all civilians, were reported killed in clashes in the province.

Separatists say Aceh has become a virtual colony of Indonesia’s dominant island of Java. They claim its 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.

Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island 1,100 miles northwest of Jakarta, is one of several regions demanding to secede from the sprawling, ethnically diverse archipelagic nation of 210 million people. Indonesia has ruled out demands for an independent Aceh, fearing it would lead to disintegration.

President Abdurrahman Wahid has instead offered the staunchly Muslim province wide-ranging autonomy and Islamic sharia law. He has also announced an emergency development package for the region and promised to visit this month.

Rebel and government negotiators are scheduled to meet in Geneva later this month.

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