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4 Die in Aceh Anti-Rebel Campaign

February 9, 2000

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) _ Government troops clashing with separatist rebels have killed four people in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where security forces have intensified operations, police said Wednesday.

Tuesday’s killings brought the death toll in the gas and oil-rich province to at least 14 since Monday.

Lt. Col. Syafei Aksal, a local police chief, said the four were shot dead in two skirmishes in North Aceh and nearby regency of Bireuem. He said the four belonged to the Free Aceh Movement.

But Ismail Syahputra, a spokesman for the rebel group, said the victims were villagers assassinated by soldiers.

Also Tuesday, two schoolchildren were injured in a grenade attack against a military post in Bireuem, the Media Indonesia daily reported.

The rebels are fighting for an independent state in Aceh, about 1,100 miles northwest of Jakarta. More than 5,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the past decade.

In recent months, government troops have conducted a series of sweeps against rebel strongholds.

In the eastern Maluku Islands, six people were killed in Muslim-Christian fighting in Malifut, a local police official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

Muslims and Christians are at odds because of an influx of Muslim migrants into the region, where more than 2,000 people have been killed in a year.

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