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 fired the rockets at 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.
Sujono added that 15 warships had moved into waters close to the northern town of Lhokseumawe, an area that is heavily populated with rebels.
Earlier Monday, six C-130 Hercules transport aircraft released 458 soldiers over an airstrip close to Banda Aceh in a show of force after Indonesia announced a military crackdown and martial law in the province.
The 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.
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.
President Megawati Sukarnoputri signed a decree authorizing war in the oil- and gas-rich in province after a rebel delegation in Tokyo rejected Jakarta's demand to lay down their weapons and accept autonomy instead of independence.
"We are ready to ambush, to strike and paralyze the rebels," Aceh military spokesman Lt. Col. Firdaus Kormano said earlier.
The Dec. 9 agreement halted the 26-year insurgency in the oil- and gas-rich province 1,200 miles northwest of Jakarta, but the accord unraveled in recent months following violence by both sides and mutual recriminations.
The Tokyo talks were arranged hastily under pressure from international donors alarmed by the prospect of a return to hostilities in Aceh, where more than 12,000 people have died in fighting since 1976 amid accusations of atrocities on both sides.
As the two sides sat down for the second day of negotiations on Sunday in Tokyo, thousands of Indonesian troops massed in the province, poised to attack.
The talks ended with the rebels refusing to comply with Indonesia's demand to disarm and accept special autonomy, not independence for the province.
Rebel leader Malik Mahmud said he believed the Indonesian government was "looking for a way to declare war" and did not intend to compromise.
"They asked us to surrender," said Mahmud, who vowed resistance to government troops.
"We will oppose the onslaught," he said. "We will fight for independence."
Indonesia's chief government negotiator said the two sides "nearly reached an agreement" during the roughly 13 hours of talks Sunday. But he said the issue of independence for the region was not on the table.
The five senior rebels were first arrested Friday as they prepared to leave Aceh to join the peace talks in Japan. Authorities released the men the next day after the discussions began.
Armed officers barged into their hotel in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, shortly after martial law was declared on Monday and took them to regional police headquarters, witnesses said.
Asked why the five were arrested, deputy Aceh police chief Ari Rahman said: "We are taking steps to ensure the security of the nation."
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