Aceh clashes continue, military says 15 killed.
At least 15 people died, including four policemen and a soldier, in clashes since Indonesian military and police launched a sweep against independence-seeking guerrillas in Aceh Province, military officials said late Sunday. Col. Syarifuddin Tippe, commander of Aceh Besar's Teuku Umar Military District Command, said the operation has been under way since Thursday and is focused on villages in the regencies of Pidie and North Aceh, where the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels are concentrated. Tippe said defense forces will continue to attack GAM guerrillas. "We will not let them survive, because they want to separate Aceh from the Republic of Indonesia," he said. Local military officers and police said at least 154 houses have been set ablaze and six cows shot dead in the crackdown, during which clashes between soldiers and "rebel supporters" also occurred. North Aceh military commander Lt. Col. Suyatno said rebels blew up a bridge in the village of Blang Pante on Thursday, injuring one soldier. About 30 soldiers were dispatched to the scene to hunt the rebels immediately after the incident, and angry for not being able to find the rebels, set fire to 28 houses, prompting about 5,000 villagers to flee and injuring at least two, he said. North Aceh Police Chief Lt. Col. Syafei Aksal said armed clashes between soldiers and GAM members were still going on in North Aceh on Sunday night. Guerrillas threw firebombs at an army housing unit in the village of Hagu Selatan in North Aceh early Sunday, but no casualties were reported, Aksal said.