Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Indonesia's military will complete the second phase of a four-stage troop withdrawal from Aceh on Monday, part of a landmark peace pact to end decades of rebellion in the tsunami-devastated province.
The last batch of soldiers involved in the phase that began last week was scheduled to leave from the northern Aceh town of Lhokseumawe, once a hotbed of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels fighting for independence. "God willing by today we would meet the target on soldiers leaving Aceh," one military official, Major Harry told. Harry, who uses only one name, did not give the number of soldiers leaving on Monday, but the military had said earlier that 6,000 soldiers were expected to withdraw in round two.
The first troops pulled out in September and the last round is expected in December. For its part, GAM is surrendering a minimum of 840 weapons to the peace monitors in four phases.
GAM and Indonesia's government signed the peace pact in Helsinki after months of negotiation spurred on by the Dec. 26 tsunami that smashed into Indian Ocean coastlines. That disaster left around 170,000 Acehnese dead or missing, and created pressure for the two sides to end their conflict and concentrate on rebuilding the province.
The simmering conflict had killed 15,000, mostly civilians, over a near 30-year period, and dampened investment and tourism in Indonesia's western-most province. By year-end Indonesia, which had more than 30,000 soldiers and 15,000 policemen in Aceh before the truce, is required to trim its forces to no more than 14,700 soldiers and 9,100 police.