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Aceh Rebels to Boycott Peace Talks - 2002-01-29

Rebels in Indonesia's Aceh province say they will boycott peace talks to protest the killing of their military commander. Leaders of the Free Aceh Movement say they will not negotiate with the Indonesian government. They say they are still mourning the death of their military leader, Abdullah Sayfei, who was killed by the Indonesian military last week in a raid on his headquarters. Rebel spokesman Agan says he doubts the Indonesian government wants to find a peaceful solution to the Aceh conflict. "The government of Indonesia is not sincere at all in doing dialogue with Achenese people," he said. The government and the rebels have held peace talks under the auspices of the Henry Dunant foundation in Switzerland. A cease-fire reached 18 months ago collapsed last year after both sides accused the other of truce violations. The next round of talks is scheduled to start Saturday in Geneva. The Free Aceh Movement has been fighting for an independent state since 1976. A conflict that has cost thousands of lives, with more than 100 dead this month.

International and local human-rights groups have accused the Indonesian military and the rebels of human-rights violations in Aceh.

The Indonesian government has vowed to wipe out the rebel group and has stepped up its operations in the troubled province. Indonesia recently passed an autonomy law giving the resource-rich province a larger share of its oil and gas revenues. The law also allows Aceh to implement Sharia, Islamic law in a bid to cool independence sentiment.