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Thousands Welcome Indonesian Separatist from Exile


Thousands of supporters have welcomed back the founder of a separatist movement in Indonesia's Aceh province after he spent 30 years in exile. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta.

Thousands of curious onlookers and former rebel soldiers swarmed the provincial capital of Banda Aceh to witness Hasan di Tiro's historic return.

Di Tiro declared independence form Indonesia in 1979 and sparked a conflict that spanned three decades and claimed more than 15,000 lives.

The 83-year-old is the founder of the Free Aceh Movement, also known as GAM.

He fled to Sweden and has since become a citizen of that country.

Sri Hartati, a resident of Aceh among the crowd of supporters, sees di Tiro as a national hero.

She says the Acenese are proud to have a person such as him to awaken their patriotic spirit.

Another resident among the crowd of supporters, Nazar, hoped to get a glimpse of the legendary figure.

He says many people in Aceh have never seen him in person, only heard his name sometimes or saw pictures of him in the newspaper.

Di Tiro on Sunday will travel to his home village east of the provincial capital.

A peace deal was brokered in 2005, months after the Indian Ocean Tsunami tore through the country and left 160,000 dead or missing.

Finland's former president Martti Ahtisaari won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his part in negotiating the pact.

The peace process has been marred by small acts of violence over the past few years, including a grenade attack on a car Friday evening which left one person injured.

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