Subject: KY: U.N. seizes weapons smuggled from W. to E. Timor

Japan Economic Newswire March 10, 2000, Friday

U.N. seizes weapons smuggled from W. to E. Timor

DILI, East Timor, March 10 Kyodo

The United Nations peacekeeping force in East Timor has confiscated a number of weapons smuggled by ship from Indonesia's West Timor and detained at least five people, a U.N. spokesman said Friday.

Manoel de Almeida, spokesman of the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), told a press conference the weapons were confiscated Thursday from a ship carrying refugees returning to East Timor.

'The ship carried 386 returnees from Kupang and upon arrival in Dili as the baggage was being unloaded and passengers started disembarking, customs officers conducted a routine search of one of the passengers and discovered two hand grenades,' de Almeida said.

The grenades were concealed in a cassette player. The passenger was detained and handed over to U.N. civilian police, he said.

Following the discovery, the custom officers conducted a search of all the baggage on the ship, and found three weapons, several packages of air gun pellets, and a bundle of bayonets, de Almeida said.

'The confiscated weapons were handed over to U.N. peacekeeping personnel and four other individuals were detained for questioning by civpol (civilian police),' he said.

The discovery, he said, has prompted the U.N. border control service to conduct a search of the baggage on all ships bringing back returnees from West Timor. By Friday the number of such returning refugees had reached 150,194.

'Body searches may be carried out if it is deemed warranted,' de Almeida said.

In a related development, Lt. Col. Brynjar Nymo, chief spokesman for the peacekeeping forces, said their presence in the Ermera District town of Atsabe in the central part of the territory 'will remain high and patrols and checkpoints throughout the area will continue.'

Troops from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Portugal are taking part in the operation, he said.

The level of alertness along the East Timor border with West Timor has been increased from 'medium' to 'high', following a series of cross-border incursions and attacks on people in West Timor by pro-Indonesia militias.

The attacks have claimed at least one life, that of a villager.

'Yesterday (Thursday), members of the militia were spotted by the peacekeeping forces, but the distance, the difficult terrain and the bad weather prevented the peacekeeping forces from making physical contact or positively identifying the group,' Nymo told reporters.

Based on observations in Atsabe, however, the group consisted of 15 males, wore dark clothes, and all of them were carrying weapons, he said.

According to Nymo, the pro-Jakarta militias are very active in isolated areas of the entire western part of East Timor and the Ermera district in the central part, driving unarmed civilians into hiding.

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