Nurdin bin Ismail Amat (alias Din Minimi), the most wanted militant in Aceh, on Tuesday surrendered to Indonesian authorities, putting down his weapons along with 120 of his men.
The decision by Din and his group to surrender followed negotiations with Indonesian authorities, National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso told reporters.
Din, a former member of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), an Acehnese separatist group that fought Indonesia for 30 years until a decade ago, had been leading his band of fighters in armed opposition to the region’s government.
Din told BenarNews earlier this year that his group was fighting corruption embodied by Aceh’s government, which is led by former GAM rebels.
The group of militants decided to “go down the mountain” after two months of talks borkered by Juha Christensen, a Finn who had played a role in the 2005 Helsinki accord that ended the three-decade conflict between Indonesia and GAM rebels, Sutiyoso said.
Some 25,000 people – mostly civilians – were killed in the conflict in Indonesia’s westernmost province.
“I used the soft approach, as ordered by the president,” Sutiyoso told reporters told a press conference on Tuesday in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, referring to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
“For two months, I had communicated intensely by phone with Din Minimi,” Sutiyoso said.
Juha told BenarNews that he had met with Din Minimi two weeks ago at a secret location in a remote area in East Aceh district.
“This is part of the reintegration processes of former GAM members according the Helsinki agreement, and I work at the request of the government,” Christensen said.
Following Tuesday’s surrender, dozens of weapons, grenades and other munitions were handed over to authorities, and Minimi’s band of men posed for a group photo with Sutiyoso.
Din told Sutiyoso that three of his members had left the group and he would not be responsible for them.
Din has requested amnesty for the 120 members who joined him and for 30 members who have been apprehended by the police. Sutiyoso told the Jakarta Post that Jokowi and other central government leaders had agreed to the group’s request for amnesty.
The group also asked Jakarta to help Acehnese widows and orphans, as well as former GAM combatants, lead more prosperous lives.
‘They feel abandoned’
Sutiyoso described the request as reasonable and rational.
“Din Minimi also asked for the Corruption Eradication Commission to come down to Aceh. This means a criticism that there is something wrong with the local budget. We will prove whether his criticism is true,” Sutiyoso said.
The intelligence chief stated that Din’s group did not want to be independent from Indonesia.
“He is not a robber that brings trouble to the community – he had never done it,” Sutiyoso said. “I believe the group is disappointed. They are not satisfied with the GAM elite in government. They feel abandoned.”
Aceh Gov. Zaini Abdullah and Deputy Gov. Muzakir Manaf are formers GAM combatants.
The Regional Police in Aceh previously blamed Din Minimi and his group for several criminal acts, including robbery and kidnapping.
Branded as criminals
The group also had been accused of masterminding the kidnapping and killing of two military intelligence officers in March, but Sutiyoso stated that Din Minimi and his group were not involved.
In April, BenarNews interviewed Din via telephone from a hideout in Aceh.
He acknowledged then that that his band of men had committed crimes in East Aceh, including the abduction of a Sottish oil worker in 2013.
But he denied that they were behind the execution-style killings of two Indonesian army intelligence officials in North Aceh in late March 2015.
“We have no business with the TNI,” Din told BenarNews, using the acronym for the Indonesian military. “Our opponents are the government of Aceh.”