Tue, Jan 11, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Indonesia military eases up on rebels after tsunami hit

AP , BANDA ACEH

Indonesia's military forces are not conducting offensive operatio ns against Acehnese rebels, despite reports that they have attacked aid convoys and even briefly kidnapped Indonesian relief workers helping survivors of the tsunami disaster, the country's military chief said yesterday.

The commander of Indonesian Armed Forces Endriartono Sutarto said in an interview his soldiers on Sumatra island were only engaged in the relief effort.

There are an estimated 30,000 Indonesian troops on Sumatra island, whose northern tip was devastated by the Dec. 26 quake and tsunami. Before the disaster, most were fighting rebels from the Free Aceh Movement, known by its Indonesian acronym GAM.

"I told my soldiers not to conduct offensive operations," Sutarto said during a visit to the airport at Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh Province.

"They are all on the ground conducting humanitarian operations. We do not know whether GAM have stopped their armed activities and we also have to provide units to protect those who are providing humanitarian operations," he said.

Asked for his view of the security situation in the disaster zone, Sutarto said, "In my opinion, it's not that bad."

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