- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

JAKARTA, Indonesia, March 3 (UPI) — Thousands of angry protesters Monday attacked the representative of the Henry Dunant Center, injuring two people and setting fire to three vehicles belonging to the group monitoring the truce in Indonesia's Aceh province.

Officials said a mob of thousands attacked the Joint Security Office during a rally against the presence of the committee, which is responsible for monitoring a truce between the government and the Free Aceh Movement, known by its local language initials of GAM.

"The trouble started this morning when our people discovered that the tri-partite monitoring team's office in Takengon had been ransacked," said Steve Daly, spokesman for the HDC operation in Aceh's capital, Banda Aceh.

The Geneva-based HDC helped broker an agreement between the Indonesian government and GAM on Dec. 9, 2002, that established a plan for restoring peace to the province where separatist rebels has fighting for an independence state since 1976.

Officials said two JSC representatives suffered minor injuries during the incident. Several people were held hostage for a short time.

Aceh's military spokesman Lt. Col. Firdaus said the protesters demanded JSC close its office in Central Aceh as it failed to respond complaints over an alleged levy by GAM.

They demanded GAM, which reportedly kidnapped local businessman, to return some $55,000 it gained from the victim.

Aceh military commander, Maj. Gen. Djali Yusuf, said that the situation had returned to normal following the incident, the first instance of violence directed at peace monitors in the province since they arrived shortly after the signing of the truce.

Another HDC spokesman, Fahmi Yunus, said his office have yet to find out the motive of the attack, adding that the case is currently being discussed by the HDC, the government and GAM in Banda Aceh.

More than two decades of separatist fighting in the staunchly Muslim province of Aceh, 1,050 miles northwest of Jakarta, has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 of people — mostly civilians.

Jakarta has repeatedly rejected GAM's demands for independence and said a special autonomy package which given Aceh more powers over its affairs was the best it could offer.

Meanwhile, thousands of people paraded Monday through the streets in Aceh's capital on Monday to celebrate the Islamic New Year and the authorities' plan to inaugurate its first Islamic court on Tuesday.

Indonesia's religious minister, joined by several high-ranking government officials are scheduled to attend the official inauguration of the Islamic court.

Jakarta allowed Aceh to implement partial Islamic law as part of the broad autonomy it accorded the region in an effort to end 26-year-old separatist sentiments in the province.

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