June 17, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Indonesian Air Force deployed F-16s to deliver "shock therapy" to separatist rebels in the province of Aceh, sending sonic booms across the province.
Indonesian AF F-16A in air superiority blue color scheme, prior to delivery. [LMTAS
The jets were used on Monday, for the first time in the month-long offensive, flying over several rebel strongholds including Bireun, 170 km (105 miles) east of the provincial capital Banda Aceh.
The military has disputed local media reports that the F-16s were used on Monday to drop bombs on rebel positions. ''Yesterday's attack is what we call a sonic boom,'' a military spokesman told. ''Up to now there have not been any bombs.''
The region around Bireun has seen some of the heaviest fighting since the government launched a fresh offensive nearly four weeks ago to try to crush the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). At least 230 people have died in the campaign.
The rebels, numbering around 5,000, have been fighting for independence since 1976 in the gas-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra island. The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, most of them civilians.