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18

Indonesian navy to isolate Aceh rebels

The Indonesian navy says it intends to launch an operation to cut off seaborne supplies to Aceh...

The Indonesian navy says it intends to launch an operation to cut off seaborne supplies to Aceh separatist rebels in northern Sumatra.

The national news agency Antara quoted the navy chief of staff, Admiral Indroko Sastrowiryono, as saying that if the authorities managed to isolate the rebels, their stocks of weapons and other supplies would in time run out.

Admiral Indroko said the navy believed the Aceh rebels had begun to engage in piracy in the Strait of Malacca, but he admitted that it had no evidence yet.

More than 1,000 people have been killed this year in fighting between government troops and the rebels. In the worst incident in recent months, more than 30 plantation workers were shot dead last Thursday.

The rebels and the military have blamed each other for the massacre.

Meanwhile, President Megawati Sukarnoputri has signed into law a bill giving more powers to the province of Aceh.

The law increases the amount of revenue Aceh receives from oil and gas exploration, and allows the local authorities to impose Islamic law.

news.bbc.co.uk