Subject: East Timor police to be armed in wake of attacks

South China Morning Post Thursday, February 10, 2000


Police to be armed in wake of attacks


All United Nations civilian police officers in East Timor are to be armed from today, following a series of violent incidents in the territory. Security concerns have been raised by some officers following attacks on them by East Timorese.

"It is the opinion of the 'civ pol' commissioner that when Interfet [the international peacekeeping troops] leave, the civ pol on the ground may become very vulnerable to locals who could attack," said the Deputy Superintendent of Police in Dili, Blewushie Nicholas.

UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet) spokesman Manuel de Almeida said officers trained in handling weapons in their home countries would have to undergo further training before receiving their sidearm from the UN.

"According to civ pol rules of engagement, the weapons can only be used in the case of immediate threat to the life of a civ pol officer or a third person," he said yesterday.

The first officers to be armed will be those at the Dili detention centre. The issuing of weapons will continue until the end of March.

Officers arriving in East Timor this week will increase the civilian police strength to 600 but the force is authorised to reach a maximum of 1,640 officers.

Civilian police officers come from police forces all around the world, and some do not carry arms on a daily basis. In this case UN rules of engagement stipulate these officers may carry torches, pepper spray and batons to protect themselves.

Some officers who do not carry arms in their own countries will not join street patrols. The 14 British officers due to work with Untaet will be confined to duties within the office.

Meanwhile, Portuguese soldiers are back on East Timor soil for the first time since 1975, when Lisbon abandoned its then colony.

Yesterday 250 troops flew in. A similar number will join them today, with others to follow until 765 are deployed by the end of the month.

They will be stationed in central East Timor as part of the UN peacekeeping force which will replace the International Force for East Timor by February 23.

A Portuguese naval vessel has been stationed off Dili for a number of weeks and sailors have visited the city.

A large contingent of Jordanian soldiers also began to arrive in Dili yesterday for deployment in the enclave of Oecussi.

In another development, the head of the UN mission said desperately needed jobs should be provided more quickly for East Timorese after talks between the UN administration in Dili and the World Bank.

Indonesian troops have arrested Moko Soares, a militia leader who led attacks on East Timor's Oecussi enclave, the commander of the international troops in the territory, Major-General Peter Cosgrove, said yesterday.

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