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Mob Attacks Office of Aceh Peace Monitors - 2003-03-03

A mob attacked an office belonging to international peace monitors in Indonesia's restive northern province of Aceh, slightly injuring two people. Thousands of Acehnese were protesting Monday that not enough was being done to rein in separatist rebels when the event turned violent. About 4,000 angry people in central Aceh gathered around an office of the Henri Dunant Center, which brokered the December peace deal between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement rebels.

The incident took place Monday in the central Aceh town of Takegon, which is about 300 kilometers south of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

Local military officials and Indonesia's state news agency says residents of Takegon had become angry about alleged extortion in the area by the rebels and a mob then directed its anger toward the HDC because they said the group had failed to act on complaints.

Indonesian security forces stepped in and escorted the HDC staff to safety after several of them suffered minor injuries.

The group has deployed scores of international observers throughout Aceh to monitor a ceasefire, and to investigate any alleged violations of the peace agreement.

The Free Aceh Movement has been fighting a low-intensity campaign for independence but agreed to a ceasefire in December. The peace plan calls for local elections to be held, and for Jakarta to allow Aceh more control over the province's natural resources.

Nearly three months after the agreement was signed, the peace plan is now in its disarmament phase. The Free Aceh Movement is expected to hand over its first significant store of weapons on March 9.