Subject: WP: Indonesian Military Tied To Recent Timor Attacks

Washington Post Monday, March 20, 2000

Indonesian Military Tied To Recent Timor Attacks

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran Washington Post Foreign Service

DILI, East Timor, March 19—U.N. peacekeepers have concluded that the Indonesian military has been involved in a recent spate of attacks by paramilitary units across the increasingly tense border separating newly independent East Timor from Indonesian-controlled western Timor.

Although U.N. officials have said publicly there is no direct evidence to tie Indonesia's armed forces to the incidents, which have included shooting at peacekeepers and illegal incursions into East Timor, a confidential report prepared for the U.N. force commander states that there is "good information on complicity by TNI [the Indonesian military] in attacks."

The report says that in the Feb. 29 entry of 50 armed militiamen into East Timor, "Reliable and multiple reporting indicates that militia passed through [the border] with TNI concurrence to conduct infiltration."

The document details 16 militia incidents between Feb. 21 and March 7.

Indonesian military officials have repeatedly insisted that their soldiers have not been involved in any of the incidents. After receiving complaints from the U.N. officials who now govern East Timor, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid last week ordered a new crackdown on the militias.

The incidents have ratcheted up anxiety levels on the eastern side of the rugged, 103-mile border. U.N. commander Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos of the Philippines, recently placed troops at the highest state of alert, and increased patrols.

"We are very much concerned about border security," de los Santos said in an interview. "The security of East Timor depends on how well we can control the militias."

The attacks could complicate efforts to forge a diplomatic relationship between Indonesia and East Timor, whose residents voted overwhelmingly for independence Aug. 30. After the election results were announced, pro-Indonesia militias rampaged through the territory, burning and looting thousands of buildings before fleeing to western Timor when an Australian-led peacekeeping force arrived.

U.N officials said one of the reasons for the flurry of attacks is militia leaders' displeasure with Wahid's visit here in late February, in which he apologized for atrocities committed by his nation.

U.N. officials also speculated that some of the incursions and shootings are designed to probe the mettle of the U.N.-controlled peacekeepers, who took over last month from the Australians.

"They are testing us," said the special representative of the U.N. secretary general, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who is effectively East Timor's leader until general elections are held next year.

De los Santos refused to comment directly on Indonesian military involvement in the incidents, saying only that "the attacks were coordinated and deliberate, and we can see some form of competence in the people who conducted them."

A U.N. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Brynjar Nymo, said the report's description of Indonesian military complicity was accurate. The Indonesian armed forces "are turning a blind eye," he said. "They see these guys going across the border loaded down with automatic weapons and ammunition. They aren't going deer hunting."

The U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Robert S. Gelbard, has gone even further, arguing that elements of the Indonesian military are directly supporting the militias. "We were told all the militias had been disarmed. Suddenly and magically they seem to have come up with arms," Gelbard said here last week.

The United Nations has about 2,500 soldiers from Australia and New Zealand guarding the far western part of East Timor.

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