Former Indonesia’s rebels handing over the last of their weapons

Former rebels were handing over some of their last weapons Thursday in the final phase of a landmark peace deal to end 29 years of fighting in Aceh province, an army spokesman said. The decommissioning of arms, which began after the signing of an Aug. 15 accord with the Indonesian government, is scheduled to be completed on Saturday. The Free Aceh Movement rebels surrendered 55 guns on Wednesday in the southeastern town of Kutacane, kicking off the fourth and final stage of the process, said Lt. Col. Erie Soetiko.

Another 44 were handed over Thursday in the central Aceh town of Blangkejeren, bringing to 730 the total number of weapons accepted by the government so far, he said.

Under the peace accord, the rebels must hand over 840 functioning arms while the government withdraws 24,000 soldiers and police, both by the end of the year.

Peace efforts picked up speed after the massive earthquake and tsunami struck the area on Dec. 26, 2004, killing 131,000 people in the province and leaving half a million others homeless. The last 5,800 soldiers in Aceh are scheduled to leave on Dec. 29, Soetiko said, reports the AP. I.L.

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