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Breakaway bids test Aceh's post-tsunami peace deal

Distrust of the provincial government runs deep in certain regions.

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Indonesia's Aceh Province – still recovering from a separatist conflict as well as the 2004 tsunami – is confronting a political challenge from within.

The government recently contained a violent incident in its central highlands that threatened to reopen the decades-old armed conflict. But a political movement to form new provinces in the central region and the south could fracture Aceh anew.

No evidence has yet tied the March 1 killing of five former rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to the breakaway efforts. But in Aceh's central highlands, many residents deeply distrust former members of GAM, which negotiated a peace deal after the tsunami and won the provincial governorship in 2006 elections.

The breakaway efforts poses a serious challenge to Gov. Irwandi Yusuf, himself a former GAM rebel who once agitated for Aceh's independence from Indonesia and whose movement broadened autonomy for Aceh in the peace deal. It would test his government's authority and disperse Aceh's rich resources of timber, minerals, oil, gas, and arable volcanic soils.

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