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Troops raid Aceh village, 37 arrested

Agence France Presse - January 9, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian troops raided a village suspected of harboring a separatist leader holding two military hostages in troubled Aceh province Saturday, arresting 37 residents, the military said.

But the separatist Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh) leader Ahmad Kandang again eluded the raiders and they found no trace of the hostages in Kandang village near Lhokseumawe, Lhokseumawe district military chief Colonel Johnny Wahab told AFP by phone.

Wahab said the troops clashed with local residents who tried to prevent the them from finding the separatists. "The troops were trying to find two soldiers kept hostage by the separatists but the villagers tried to prevent them," added Wahab.

The villagers had been coerced to protect the separatists with threats of burning down their houses if they did not, he said. Wahab said two villagers were injured in the clash but there were no deaths.

The army has blamed the separatist group for instigating the kidnappings of the two soldiers and for the murder of seven troops in a separate ambush in an upsurge of violence in the province earlier this month.

On Sunday the military also raided three villages including Simpang Kibre village, some 20 kilometers from Lhokseumawe. In those raids at least 17 people killed and scores wounded but Aceh Merdeka leader Kandang was not found.

The fresh raid came a day after a National Commission on Human Rights team had left the province following a three-day fact-finding tour.