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Denmark warns of terror threat to Aceh aid workers
Updated: 2005-01-18 10:48

Denmark warned on Monday it had received information that international aid workers faced possible terror attacks in Indonesia's Aceh province, devastated by the Dec. 26 tsunami.

"We have received information from sources abroad that somebody would be planning an attack today," Danish foreign ministry official Niels Erik Andersen told national public service broadcaster DR.

Earlier, the ministry said in a statement it had "received information that imminent terror attacks are being planned against foreign rescue workers" in Aceh. It did not elaborate on the nature of the threat or the origin of the information.

A Danish aid worker in Aceh's capital Banda Aceh said he and his colleagues had been briefed about a threat to a relief group active in an area of Sumatra, 180 km (110 miles) from Banda Aceh.

An Indonesian government spokesman said the militant Free Aceh Movement (GAM) could be behind the threat.

But a GAM spokesman in Sweden, where several of the movement's leaders live in exile, said GAM was not planning any attacks.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said relief workers had had no problems working in Aceh province despite its simmering separatist rebellion, but they needed to be cautious.

"Obviously, given the fact there had been conflict in the region, the staff who are there have to be careful. They have to watch what they do," Annan told reporters as he returned to U.N. headquarters from a tour of areas devastated by the tsunami.

"But so far so good. We haven't had any major problems with the GAM or any other group," he said.

In Jakarta, foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said the government would try to ensure the safety and security of all humanitarian workers, foreign or Indonesian.

"We are keen to find out what this so-called intelligence information that the Danish government possesses is," he said. "Based on the past conduct of the GAM, it is natural for us to anticipate GAM actions against the humanitarian workers."

When asked about Natalegawa's comments, Bakhtiar Abdullah, a GAM spokesman in Sweden, said: "I would like to strongly deny that accusation."

GAM is committed to a ceasefire so that aid workers can carry out their work "freely and independently without any threat to their lives", he said.

Separately, religious fundamentalists in staunchly Muslim Aceh, who want independence for their gas-rich province, have expressed anger over what they say is proselytising by Christian aid groups involved in post-tsunami relief efforts.

The Danish Foreign Ministry said it had notified aid organisations and media present in the province of the threat.

"All Danes in the area are urged to exercise the utmost care and try to find their way to safety," it said.

Andersen told DR that people should seek protection by police or the military, stay indoors or try to leave the area.

Soren Benthin, a senior official at the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) which runs a field hospital in Banda Aceh, said DEMA staff were taking the warning seriously.

"We don't go outside the camp," the Danish Ritzau news agency quoted him as saying. "We were briefed about a possible terror threat against a relief organisation in Sumatra," he said. Ritzau did not say which aid group had been threatened.

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