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[] Microchip 'led troops' to Aceh rebel,

SMH = Sydney Morning Herarld

Microchip 'led troops' to Aceh rebel 

By Lindsay Murdoch, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta 

A microchip inserted in a letter of invitation to peace talks led Indonesian soldiers to a remote village hide-out where they shot dead the Aceh rebel commander Abdullah Syafei, rebels claimed yesterday.

The Swedish-based leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) said the microchip was embedded in the corner of the letter inviting Mr Syafei to meet the Jakarta-appointed Governor of Aceh, Abdullah Puteh.

"It seems to us the invitation for dialogue was just camouflage to capture and kill Syafei," the rebels said in a statement.

Indonesian authorities have not confirmed the claim. But the Indonesian military spokesman in Aceh, Zaenal Muttaqin, said local residents had tipped off troops about the hide-out.

The killing of Mr Syafei, 54, his wife, Fatimah, and five bodyguards during a 30-minute gun battle on Tuesday was a severe blow for the rebel movement. It was already reeling from a sustained military campaign that so far this year has cost at least 123 lives in the resource-rich and staunchly Islamic province at the northern tip of Sumatra.

Mr Syafei, who became a guerilla when the movement began its fight for independence in 1976, was GAM's best-known figure. He refused even to discuss Indonesia's rule with representatives of Jakarta.

But GAM is deeply divided and Mr Syafei's disappearance from public view - he had not been seen by outsiders for more than a year - fuelled rumours that he had been toppled in a coup by rebel splinter groups.

GAM leaders last year refused to accept a law passed in Jakarta allowing Acehnese to implement Islamic law and granting them a much larger share of the province's oil and gas revenues.

In Jakarta, leading politicians yesterday welcomed Mr Syafei's killing. Akbar Tanjung, the Speaker of parliament and head of Golkar, the former ruling party, said: "We gladly welcome the excellent achievement of the TNI [military] in handling parties that clearly want to separate from Indonesia."

GAM announced that Mr Syafei's Libyan-trained deputy, Muzakir Manaf, had been appointed to replace him until further notice.

A GAM spokesman, Sofyan Dawd, said Mr Syafei's death would not affect the struggle for independence.

"We will never stop until we accomplish freedom," he said.

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