Rebel leaders held for terrorism

BANDA ACEH: Four senior Aceh rebel representatives held by Indonesia are officially suspects in bomb attacks, police said yesterday in an announcement which could further threaten a shaky peace process. 

“The four detainees are now officially suspects for violations of (articles) of the anti-terrorist law” and other statutes, police spokesman Sayed Hoesainy said. 

The four representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), part of a joint committee overseeing a peace pact in the troubled province, were seized at the Banda Aceh airport on Friday as they tried to leave the provincial capital, 1,700km northwest of Jakarta. 

The violations were in relation to their alleged involvement in bombings in Jakarta and Medan, Hoesainy said. 

ACEH-BOUND: Indonesian troops throwing their berets into the air before leaving for Aceh at a military port in Jakarta Saturday. About 500 marines left for Aceh to join the 35,000 police and soldiers already in the province on Sumatra island.- AFPpic

Jakarta was hit by two bomb attacks in late April, one of which wounded 10 people at the capital's main airport. Police have said they were similar to an earlier attack in Medan, the largest city on Sumatra island, and blamed it on GAM. 

A key GAM figure in exile in Stockholm, Zaini Abdullah, said yesterday the separatist group had nothing to do with the bombings. 

“The GAM is not involved in this case. They have no evidence to blame us,” he said. 

GAM military spokesman Sofyan Daud said the detention of the four representatives of the Joint Security Committee was “conducted without reason” and showed the Indonesian government had “no good faith” in resuming dialogue. 

The committee, which groups representatives from GAM, the government and foreign peace brokers, is part of the structure set up to enforce the peace pact. 

The deal, aimed at stopping the decades-long conflict over the resource-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra that has killed at least 10,000 people, calls on GAM to lay down arms and the military to withdraw to defensive positions. 

After initial success, however, the pact has become increasingly troubled, and yesterday 600 marines left Jakarta to join thousands already sent to reinforce government troops in Aceh as they prepare for a possible military offensive. 

The government has set a May 12 deadline for the separatists to agree on peace talks and other demands or face the offensive. 

GAM has held firm in refusing, but group spokesman Abdullah said mediation talks in Stockholm with the Geneva-based Henry Dunant Centre yesterday showed there was some hope for a peaceful solution. 

“The result of the meeting was very good,” he said. 

He said GAM was due to issue a statement on its stance which the Henry Dunant Centre would forward to Jakarta, but it was still too early to unveil details of the outcome of the Stockholm talks. 

Abdullah said he hoped for a reply from Jakarta before tomorrow's deadline. 

Asked what he thought the chances were of a peaceful end to the crisis, Abdullah said: “I think it is 50-50. But I think it is much more positive after this meeting.” – Reuters  

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