Girl and father killed by government troops at school

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The Independent Online

Indonesian government forces killed a five–year–old girl and her father at an elementary school in Aceh province during a sweep for separatist rebels.

Indonesian government forces killed a five–year–old girl and her father at an elementary school in Aceh province during a sweep for separatist rebels, eyewitnesses and officials said.

"They fired blindly," said a witness who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

No one else was hurt yesterday at the elementary school in Ulee Ateung village, in eastern Aceh.

Indonesian officers confirmed the deaths, but said the paramilitary policemen were trying to engage guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement.

"The victims were killed by stray bullets as police were targeting rebels," East Aceh Police Chief Abdullah Hayati said.

The deaths in Ulee Ateung came despite assurances by President Abdurrahman Wahid that the army and police would refrain from causing civilian casualties in their current crackdown against the insurgents.

Indonesia's demoralized and badly trained troops earned a lasting reputation for brutality during a 10–year period in the 1990s when military rule was introduced in Aceh in an unsuccessful bid to crush the rebellion.

Officials said five other people – including a policeman hacked to death by villagers – were killed yesterday.

A rebel commander, Tengku Darwis Djeunieb, said none of the victims were members of the Free Aceh Movement.

The fighting, in which more than 6,000 people have died since 1990, has sharply escalated in recent months. The war has claimed about 100 lives each month since the beginning of this year.

The intensifying combat also forced US energy giant Exxon–Mobil to suspend natural gas production in Aceh, a province of four million people located on the northern tip of Sumatra island. Aceh accounts for a third of Indonesia's liquefied gas exports.

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