Indonesia: May 27, 2003


Indonesian troops took total control of Pulo Nasi island, off the provincial capital Banda Aceh, after a week-long land, sea and air operation. The Indonesians had mustered 13 Scorpion tanks 23 BTR50s and PT76s, along with helicopters and warships, before the fighting began. 

In West and South Aceh, the military reported four firefights late on the 26th into the 27th, during which one paramilitary policeman and seven rebels were killed. According to the Indonesian military, 76 members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have been killed since the operation began on May 19. To date, the military admits losing five soldiers and policemen killed and 20 wounded.

An Indonesian military commander noted that his soldiers had been ordered to hold their fire against rebels who use civilians as shields. The rebels were no longer using uniforms , hiding among the population and using children as young as 13 years old as "spies" or lookouts. 

Indonesia also wanted all foreign aid workers to leave the province of Aceh and all future international aid to be distributed through its own government agencies. At least 20,000 civilians have fled the fighting and there are growing fears of food shortages following attacks on vehicles, which the government has blamed on GAM rebels. 

The war has at least one high-tech twist to it. In Sweden's capital Stockholm, GAM leaders meet daily to plot the strategy of a guerrilla war fought 10,000 kilometers away in Aceh. Text messages flow both ways, on cell phones at the front and in the leader's apartments. - Adam Geibel 




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