U.S. Medical Ship Leaves Tsunami Zone

The U.S. military ended its tsunami relief efforts in Aceh province Wednesday when the medical ship USNS Mercy (search) steamed out of the region, the U.S. Embassy said.

The withdrawal of the ship means there are no longer any U.S. service men or women left helping tsunami survivors in Aceh (search), said embassy spokesman Max Kwak (search). At its peak, the military had 15,000 U.S. personnel in the province.

Doctors and nurses aboard the ship performed almost 20,000 medical procedures on sick and injured tsunami survivors during its six-week stint moored off the west coast of the region.

The ship was part of a massive foreign military effort to help countries affected by the Dec. 26 earthquake and the tsunami it spawned. The U.S. military contingent, which was the largest in the region, began withdrawing last month.

The disaster killed or left missing more than 200,000 people in Aceh province.

Survivors in the staunchly Islamic region were grateful for the help. But the operation raised suspicions among some nationalist and Muslim politicians, who complained the country's sovereignty was being compromised.

The Mercy's withdrawal continues the scaling down of foreign forces involved in relief operations in Aceh. Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has said it wants all international troops to leave by the end of March.

The region was previously closed to foreigners because of a long-running separatist war there.

The medical ship planned to stop in eastern Indonesia to treat sick patients there, the embassy said.