Five suspected rebels killed in Indonesia

JAKARTA, July 3 (UPI) -- At least five separatist rebels were killed in battles with Indonesian troops in Ache province, military officials said Wednesday.

Aceh's military spokesman Maj. Zaenal Mutaqin said a gunfight broke out Tuesday afternoon during a military raid against a suspects rebels' hideout in East Aceh. Five separatist rebels belonging to the Free Aceh Movement, known with its local acronym GAM, were killed.


On Monday, one rebel was shot to dead in another armed clash in Bireun district. But Aceh's rebel spokesman, Abu Arafah, told Indonesia's state-run Antara news agency that victim was not a member of the secessionist movement.

The increased military action comes after President Megawati Sukarnoputri instructed Aceh's military commander, Maj. Gen. Djali Yusuf, to take strong measures against separatist rebels in the province.

"Groups who commit violence and disturb public order have to be sternly punished," Megawati said Wednesday.

Military authorities have accused the GAM separatist rebels of abducting nine

crew members of a boat hired by oil and gas company the joint U.S.-affiliated oil company Exxon-Mobil Indonesia, servicing the offshore oil exploration field.

Exxon-Mobil is the largest foreign investor in Aceh. It taps liquefied natural gas in cooperation with Indonesia's state-oil company Pertamina. Last year, the gas fields were shut down for four months due to security disturbances in the restive province, causing an estimated loss of $350 million to the joint venture.


GAM and human rights groups have accused Exxon-Mobil of being implicated in human-rights abuses because of its ties to the military. Hundreds of military troops have been deployed to guard its operation against attacks by rebels.

GAM has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra, 900 miles northwest of Jakarta, since 1976. More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the conflict. Human rights advocates said more than 600 died this year in the province.

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