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Rebel movement in Aceh province goes back decades

Aceh province is on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, the largest island in the Indonesian archipelago. From the 1400s to the early 20th century, the province was an independent kingdom. In 1905, it became a Dutch colony along with other islands in the area. In 1949, Indonesia became an independent country, and, in 1950, the new government abolished the province. This led to the first Acehnese revolt. In 1959, the province was designated a special territory, rather than a province, and was allowed some autonomy.

The Free Aceh Movement, sometimes known as GAM by its initials in Indonesian, proclaimed independence in 1976, claiming, among other accusations, that the economic benefits of oil- and natural-gas sales weren't reaching the Acehnese. The government responded by sending in the military.

In December 2002 a peace agreement was signed in Geneva, but it collapsed in 2003 over the rebels' continued insistence on independence. The government declared martial law and assigned new forces to the region.

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For more information on the Web:

Federation of American Scientists:

http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/aceh.htm

Congressional Research Service:

http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RS20572.pdf

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Sources: Wikipedia, Federation of American Scientists, Congressional Research Service

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(Compiled by researcher Tish Wells.)

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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