Exiled rebel leader returns to Indonesia’s Aceh

October 11th, 2008 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Oct 11 (DPA) Greeted by thousands of cheering supporters, the 83-year-old founder of Aceh’s rebel movement returned to the tsunami-wracked Indonesian province of Aceh Saturday for the first time in almost 30 years.Hassan di Tiro fled to Sweden in late 1970s after declaring Aceh independent in 1976, a move triggered that a long-running conflict in the northwestern Indonesian province.

About 15,000 people are estimated to have died in the conflict before a truce was reached between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in August 2005, after the devastation and deaths of about 170,000 people in the province caused by the 2004 tsunami.

The agreement was facilitated by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Friday for his role in global peacemaking, including in Aceh.

Thousands of people, including from Aceh’s eastern coastal areas started arriving in Banda Aceh since Thursday in trucks, minibuses and motorcycles.

“We have come here at our own expense just to meet Hassan di Tiro in person,” said M. Fakri, a resident of North Aceh district, was quoted as saying by the state-run Antara news agency.

National Police Headquarters spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said Thursday there would be no special security arrangements for the former Aceh separatist leader.

“If he wishes to come, he is free to do so. For his security, well, there will be no special arrangements as we consider him to be an ordinary individual, not a state guest,” Abubakar said.

“The GAM problem is already settled. So, there is no more GAM. If he wants to visit Aceh, he can do so freely,” he said.

Di Tiro is expected to stay in Aceh for two weeks and travel to his home village Tiro in Pidie district Sunday.

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