Indonesia

More than 200 ex-rebels freed in Indonesia's Aceh province

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Jakarta (dpa) - More than 200 ex-separatist fighters have been freed in the tsunami-wracked province of Aceh after taking an oath of loyalty to a unified Indonesia, a local media report said Monday.

The 214 former rebels were released after pledging their allegiance to the country during an oath-taking ceremony attended by top members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and police, the Jakarta Post reported.

Officials said the ex-guerrillas from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has been fighting for an independent state for nearly three decades, surrendered to the military and police several months ago and were to be given two hectares of land for their new livelihood.

Government officials and Aceh rebel negotiators earlier this year agreed to restart peaceful negotiations in Helsinki, Finland, after the December 26 tsunami that devastated the province.

No agreement has yet been reached, but a fifth round of talks is scheduled on July 12.

Indonesian military authorities, however, have said they would continue their armed campaign to crush the insurgency, while the government and aid workers struggle to get reconstruction of the battered province off the ground.

More than 164,000 people in Aceh have been listed as dead or missing from the gigantic waves that hit the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

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