The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shadow of gun on aid effort Army on alert in Aceh

Banda Aceh, Jan. 9 (Reuters): Indonesia tried to reassure western aid workers after a brief gunfire incident today in the major tsunami aid base of Banda Aceh raised concern for their safety.

'The security operation conducted by Indonesia's military and police will protect, secure the humanitarian efforts,' Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said to allay concerns for the safety of the hundreds of western aid workers pouring in.

Indonesia's military beefed up security in Aceh amid confusion over the shooting. Some officials blamed separatists, others said a disturbed government soldier had fired the shots. No one was hurt.

The incident took place outside a deputy police chief's house and near the main UN aid office in the capital of a province where almost all of Indonesia's 104,000 deaths from the tsunami occurred.

The tsunami ' the most widespread natural disaster in living memory ' killed at least 156,000 people in 13 countries around the Indian Ocean two weeks ago, drawing emergency relief from throughout the world.

'You have to proceed with due caution. This has been and is a zone of conflict,' Aly-Kahn Rajami, programme manager of CARE International said after the shooting.

But Joel Boutroue, UN coordinator for Sumatra and chief of UN operations in Aceh, said: 'We don't believe relief workers are targets. I don't see at this stage any hampering of our movement'.

Indonesia's chief social welfare minister Alwi Shihab said the government was investigating. He said the military had ordered a high alert because of possible infiltration by people wary of the foreigners' presence.

There have been reports of militant Islamic groups moving into the province aiming to counter any use of the disaster by Western aid groups to push a Christian agenda.

In Sri Lanka, where 30,000 people died, President Chandrika Kumaratunga told BBC television that with reconstruction starting on January 15, 'we can certainly welcome tourists in three months, maximum four'.

In New York, Carol Bellamy, executive director of Unicef, the world body's organisation for children, said health officials were moving against a possible outbreak of measles.

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