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Category: News - Features (Archived) Created: 05/19/2003 10:11 PM
URL(s): N/A Updated: 12/01/2003 05:39 PM
OV-10s Used in Indonesian Combat Action
By Associated Press via Chris Brummitt
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) - Indonesian war planes on Monday fired rockets at a rebel base in the restive province of Aceh, signaling the start of a military offensive just hours after the breakdown of peace talks.

Three planes attacked a stronghold of the Free Aceh Movement some 12 miles east of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, said Maj. Gen. Erwin Sujono.

"The offensive has begun," Sujono said in Banda Aceh. It was unclear if there were any casualties.

The military said it parachuted hundreds of soldiers into the province and moved 15 warships into the area to "strike and paralyze" the Acehnese rebels in what was expected to be Indonesia's biggest military operation since its invasion of East Timor in 1975.

A state of emergency was announced at midnight on Sunday after talks in Tokyo aimed at salvaging a Dec. 9 cease-fire accord broke down. Martial law gives the military sweeping powers to make arrests, impose curfews and stop people from entering or leaving the province.

Armed with the new powers, the military immediately arrested five senior rebels who had played a key role in negotiating the December peace deal in Geneva.

Added Indonesian military Chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto: "I have ordered soldiers to hunt for those (rebels) who refuse to surrender... hunt for them and destroy them to their roots."

There are more than 30,000 government troops in Aceh, up against about 5,000 poorly armed rebels.

Monday's attack using U.S.-made OV-10 Bronco war planes was the first time in several years that the military has used air-to-surface missiles in Aceh. The military said the target was an alleged weapons cache in the rebel camp.

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