Subject: E Timor Vigilante Gangs At War Over UN's Failings

Also: Situation in Territory is 'Calm', says Ramos-Horta

The Australian 26 January 2000

Vigilante gangs at war over UN's failings


VICIOUS rioting erupted yesterday in the East Timorese capital, Dili, as friction between rival groups supposedly backed by the independence movement, CNRT, intensified.

A so-called CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance) "security company", formed in response to growing disenchantment with the UN's inability to maintain law and order, attacked another group of men, also claimed to be linked to CNRT, at Dili's bustling markets.

In the aftermath of the attack, in which four men were hacked with machetes, Australian troops and UN civilian police were forced to confront and disarm the 50-strong vigilante group. More than 70 weapons were confiscated.

Two shots were fired by Interfet troops, most likely Kenyans, during the hour-long street battle that, as victims fled, quickly spread to the adjacent village of Audian. Ambulances took at least four people away from the scene. Witnesses said one man had serious head injuries.

Australian soldiers moved into Audian, in the heart of the capital, chasing dozens of armed men as UN civilian police and some Interfet troops kept the rampaging vigilantes on the road.

The Dili-based vigilantes had attempted to swarm in to the village to hunt their victims ­ said to be from another region and involved in gambling ­ prompting the inhabitants to take up weapons to defend themselves.

A UN police officer at the scene said some of those involved told them the dispute was over a Bacau-based CNRT group's claim to deserve greater benefits than their rivals because of the fighting they did during the independence campaign.

UN police superintendent Graeme Cairns said "there was a large group associated with CNRT who decided they were going to come down here to sort the markets out".

However, CNRT security spokesman David Ximenes denied the confrontation was between two CNRT groups and said it had stemmed from frustration at the UN's failure to distribute food or create employment. Eventually, 70 police and soldiers were called yesterday and they made the vigilantes pass through a security cordon where they were searched for weapons before being allowed to march to the nearby CNRT headquarters.

However, many of the weapons were either hidden by the roadside or given to small boys who tucked them under their shirts and disappeared in the opposite direction.

The riot highlights the worsening break down of law and order in Dili and throughout East Timor, as the bulk of the Australian Interfet task force prepares to pull out around February 28.

UN peacekeepers are then expected to take over the operation under the leadership of a Filipino commander.

The riot follows a series of smaller incidents at the markets in recent days, a shooting on Saturday night, attacks on a Portuguese restaurant forced to close for fear of further violence, and a massive brawl on Wednesday where two pistols and 25 machetes were confiscated after Kenyan soldiers fired up to 25 shots. 

East Timor: Situation in Territory is 'Calm', says Ramos-Horta

Beijing, Jan. 24 (Lusa) - Jose Ramos-Horta downplayed Monday concerns over violence in East Timor, emphasizing that recent incidents "had no political motivation". "There have been acts of violence among youths, though to a much lesser degree than in South Africa, the Bronx or in certain Lisbon neighborhoods", the vice president of the CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance) told Lusa in Beijing, where he arrived earlier Monday as part of a visiting delegation headed by CNRT leader Xanana Gusmao. "The situation in East Timor is very serene and there is calm throughout the country", Ramos-Horta said. Outbursts of violence have been due to "unemployment and the lack of schools", the 1996 Nobel Peace co-laureate added. "Crime can be contained by quickly creating jobs and by increasing humanitarian aid", he stated. A number of Dili stores had been closed Saturday after at least two warehouses belonging to Timorese merchants were robbed. On Friday dozens of people looted sacks of rice from a warehouse belonging to East Timor leader Manuel Carrascalao. On Saturday, Xanana Gusmao said there was some "indis[ci]pline" in the ranks of Falintil, the armed wing of the CNRT. Gusmao made his comments in Dili after aiding the detention of three Falintil members who had been involved in a disturbance in the Pite neighborhood of the East Timor capital. The three were being held at CNRT headquarters, Gusmao said. A fourth East Timorese dressed in a Falintil uniform was detained by UN police after firing shots in the same incident.

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