HASAN Tiro, 79, is the walinegara (head of state) in the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). He studied at New York’s Columbia University in 1950 and worked for the Indonesian office in the United States. He finished his Ph.D but remained and did business in America until 1976, when he returned to Aceh to work.
He declared Aceh’s independence from Indonesia in December 1976 and, in the early 1980s, fled to Malaysia and later sought asylum in Sweden.
In the mid-1980s, he managed to have hundreds of young Acehnese trained in Libya.
He married an American and has a son currently living in California.
Hasan now lives in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden.
Malik Mahmud, 63, GAM’s “prime minister,” is a Singapore citizen but has Swedish permanent resident status.
His father used to be a fighter in the rebellion group, Darul Islam, which fought against Indonesia from 1953 to 1961. Malik never worked in the jungle – a status that has him always being confronted by the jungle alumni.
Zaini Abdullah, 61, is the “foreign minister” and chief negotiator between GAM and Indonesia.
He is a medical practitioner by training and currently works in a hospital in Stockholm.
He is stocky and known as the public face of GAM in exile, as both Hasan and Malik shun publicity.
Muzakkir Manaf, 38, GAM’s military commander in Aceh, is a law school dropout from the Banda Aceh-based Syiah Kuala University.
He was trained in Libya and is reportedly able to fly a helicopter.
Muzakkir keeps a low profile in Aceh – a decision taken after his charismatic predecessor, Abdullah Syafi’ie, was killed by Indonesian soldiers in January last year.
Sofyan Dawood, 35, the GAM spokesman in Aceh, is a high-profile figure who communicates with modern electronic equipment, such as handphones, satellite phones and notebook. The Indonesian army tries to find him with electronic devices.
He communicates regularly with journalists, who portray him as a dandy person – with light brown boots and good clothes.
His father was killed by Indonesian soldiers when they asked the old man to climb and pluck some coconuts.
Sofyan saw his father being shot down by a soldier from the coconut tree.
Critics said Sofyan owns some businesses in northern Sumatra and enriched himself with his high position within the guerilla network.
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