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Indonesia's Aceh Rebels Free 26 Hostages
VOA News
16 May 2004, 17:25 UTC

Indonesia says separatist rebels in Aceh province have released 26 hostages, a few days after the government announced plans to end military rule in the troubled region.

A spokesman for the Security Ministry, Sudi Silalahi, says rebels handed over four hostages to Red Cross workers Sunday. Twenty-two others were freed Saturday in the northern province.

Among those released today was Ferry Santoro, a television cameraman for RCTI TV, who was seized along with a reporter nearly a year ago. In December, government officials said the reporter, Ersa Siregar, was killed in a shootout between troops and rebels.

Rebels with the Free Aceh Movement have seized dozens of people since government forces launched a crackdown last May.

Thursday, Indonesian officials said they plan to end martial law this week, and place the region under a state of emergency. Security Minister Hari Sabarno, however, promised to continue military operations against the rebels who have been fighting for independence since 1976.

Indonesia's government says thousands of rebels have been killed in fighting over the past year.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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