Armed criminals have released five Chinese citizens held captive for three days in the once restive province of Aceh, where violence has again escalated in recent months. Aceh police Brigadier Yusuf said the five were released yesterday morning. 'All I can say is that they were released, that they are fine and that the kidnappers have escaped and that no ransom was paid,' he said. He declined to release further information, saying 'it could jeopardise ongoing investigations'. But a source in the security forces said '150 million rupiah [HK$124, 500] was paid'. No representative from the Chinese embassy in Indonesia was available for comment. The five were part of a group of eight kidnapped in the southern Gayo Lues district on Saturday. Aceh police spokesman Colonel Jodi Heriyadi had earlier confirmed that Indonesian national Abdul Karim and two of the Chinese citizens, Liang Jian and Peng Ying Xiang, had been released and told 'to look for a 300 million rupiah ransom'. The eight kidnapped people were reportedly working for a national mining company and in Aceh doing an investment survey. Ibrahim Syamsuddin, spokesman for the Aceh Transition Committee (KPA) said the Chinese workers had travelled to Aceh on tourist visas and had not informed the local authorities of their movements. KPA, a civil organisation, was established to represent former combatants of the former military wing of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) after the August 2005 peace agreement. The peace agreement ended a three-decade war between the secessionist GAM and Jakarta. KPA has been accused of being behind the rise in crime that has marred Aceh over the past few months. Some local businessmen and observers have said KPA has created a parallel power structure, bent on extortion and criminal activities. Mr Ibrahim also said that the kidnapping was 'the work of a criminal gang that will most probably strike again in the future'. 'It has nothing to do with KPA,' he said. Local sources have said the kidnappers were 'former combatants' and that 'possibly some of them are local members of KPA'. Adrian Morel, an analyst with the Aceh-based World Bank Conflict and Development Programme, said rising crime in Aceh could be linked to former combatants from GAM who feel they have been left out of the peace process. 'These are most likely young uneducated people, from the rank-and-file of GAM's former military wing,' he said. 'They have access to weapons and some of them might have already been involved in criminal activities during the conflict and have connections with the North Sumatra underworld. 'They might be people with no links at all to KPA, or rogue KPA members acting without the knowledge of their hierarchy.' The Chinese were reportedly the first foreigners to be kidnapped in Aceh, although several nationals have been kidnapped for ransom over the past few months. The problem has become particularly acute in the northeast and central part of the province, where local police have created an anti-kidnapping unit, which includes 25 snipers.