Dozens of people are dying and many more are being tortured and terrified in Aceh every week in a war the world is barely noticing. But the Indonesian Government's armed forces, operating in Banda Aceh, are pleased with the progress made since a presidential decree gave them the green light to crack down on the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) last year. The rebels admit they have been forced to retreat in some areas, but separatist inclinations among traumatised Acehnese remains as intractable as ever. The problem, say victims and analysts of the long-running conflict, is that determining who is a rebel and who is a civilian is virtually impossible. Because of this the vast majority of victims are innocent men, women and children who might accept Aceh staying part of Indonesia if their husbands and relatives were still alive, and if they had homes, incomes and could live in peace. 'In this operation we don't use the terms kill, occupy or destroy any more. We use the word paralyse, to describe what we're doing,' said Lieutenant-Colonel Firdaus, an Aceh military spokesman. 'For us the indicators of our progress in the field is not how many people are dead or how many weapons are collected, but how many GAM rebels can be brought back to normal life and into the big family of Indonesian people.' The trouble is that life is anything but normal in Aceh. Friends or relatives can be dragged off by police or soldiers on suspicion of rebel activity, held for weeks by the army's Kopassus special forces and tortured as part of what is called 're-education'. Humanitarian workers and human rights activists are killed or feel so frightened to move around their own towns that their work is brought to a halt. A network of activists, which only two years ago reported on troop activities and the movement of displaced persons, is today virtually non-existent. Coffee shops are full of students listening to rock music while the call to prayer from nearby mosques is ignored. Refusing to give their names, the students say they feel defeated by the repression. Their leaders are either dead or in exile. Two years ago, Acehnese people could organise themselves and express their desire for a referendum on their future. Now all those banners and activities are gone, as the local government, in league with Jakarta, tries to impose Islamic sharia law on a Muslim population more interested in securing justice for crimes committed by the military and police. Vice-Governor Aswar Abubakar admits that poverty levels almost doubled last year following the presidential decree which promised a comprehensive solution but has instead seen troop levels rise and death tolls increase. A government-sanctioned peace process, based on talks with negotiators from GAM, is proceeding slowly. The GAM negotiators are staying in a Banda Aceh hotel, have to report each month to police and are unable to return home because of threats against their families. The latest round of talks set for this weekend in Geneva has been delayed for 'logistical reasons'. Military and human rights sources say the military action has forced GAM fighters back into the hills. Two years ago, about 80 per cent of the territory and administration of Aceh was estimated to be in GAM hands. Now, the military says it has regained control of about 70 per cent. But long-distance travellers say GAM retains the ability to stop and search buses for suspected soldiers and to kill them on the spot. 'GAM is losing territory and it's not easy to find them now. You can see in the towns and cities, it appears more normal. But in the villages the terror and the killing is higher,' said a rights activist too scared to give his name. Sofyan Ibrahim, one of the GAM negotiators, said: 'We don't actually feel that we are on the run, we are still active in the field. But we have to be careful and we are very worried about the high number of civilian casualties. The army and police use civilians as a buffer. 'So we have retreated back into the hills, which is a standard guerilla tactic. 'As the enemy approaches, we retreat,' he said. 'We have retreated into the hills, which is a standard guerilla tactic. As the enemy approaches, we retreat'