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Indonesia threat to re-ignite war

From CNN's Atika Schubert

An estimated 30,000 troops are already stationed in Aceh.
An estimated 30,000 troops are already stationed in Aceh.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Indonesia is threatening to re-ignite one of Asia's longest-running separatist wars.

Government troops are already geared up for action in the restive province of Aceh, in what could be its biggest military assault since the 1975 invasion of East Timor.

The move came after a deadline ran out for rebels in Aceh to agree to new peace talks.

Just five months ago, the rebels agreed to lay down arms in exchange for a promise of autonomy.

That deal has since unraveled and international mediators have now withdrawn from the province.

The government has warned a military operation to crush the separatist Free Aceh movement may only be days away.

On Monday, the Free Aceh rebels ignored the government's deadline to disarm and return to peace talks.

More than 6,000 Indonesian government troops are being mobilized for impending military action on top of an estimated 30,000 troops already stationed in the province.

Indonesian soldiers patrol the streets of Banda Aceh
Indonesian soldiers patrol the streets of Banda Aceh

Cabinet officials plan to seek final approval from Indonesian parliament on Thursday.

There are signs the fighting has already begun. Thousands of villagers have been flooding makeshift camps in recent days, fleeing a series of clashes between Indonesian troops and Free Aceh rebels.

War is nothing new for Acehnese. Rebels have been fighting for independence since the 1970's.

Many in Aceh now fear a return to the days of military rule, when brutal anti-separatist operations led to mass human rights abuses and thousands of civilian victims.

Acehnese had hoped the December ceasefire accord would lead them out of war. Now, peace seems a very distant ideal.

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