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Indonesian Police Report Aceh Independence Leader Killed - 2002-01-23


Indonesian police say the military commander of the Achenese independent group, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), has been killed. Another rebel leader says the death of Abdullah Syafei will not halt the region's independence movement. Police said GAM commander Abdullah Syafei was shot in the chest and died Tuesday when soldiers raided his base camp in the north Aceh district of Pidie. Police have said his wife and five other GAM guerrillas were killed in the encounter. GAM spokesman Agan, who uses only one name, confirmed the death of Mr. Syafei and his wife.

"We got the news about the incident yesterday but we weren't sure. ... This has been confirmed today at noon that Mr. Abdullah Syafei indeed has been killed in an ambush," he said.

Mr. Agan said the military tracked Mr. Syafei to his camp after having earlier invited him for a meeting with military officers. He said Mr. Syafei's death will not affect GAM's fight for an independent Aceh.

"Militarily there is no effect on GAM strength because right away after the incident after the news was confirmed his deputy was took over the leadership," he said.

GAM has been fighting for an independent Islamic state since 1976. Around 10,000 people have lost their lives in the resource rich province over the past 10 years. The majority of those killed were civilians. GAM has made hundreds of raids on military and police bases in Aceh over the past two decades. Independence sentiment has grown in the province since the fall of the autocratic former President Suharto in 1998. Local and international human rights groups accuse the military of committing gross human rights violations in the province in the war against GAM. The two sides agreed on a ceasefire in 2000. After it collapsed last year, the Indonesian government launched an all-out war on the separatist movement, vowing to crush it. At least 1,400 people died in the conflict last year.

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