Subject: SMH: UN Strengthens Security Along Timor Border [+Illegal Flights]

also: Jakarta accuses Australia of illegal flights

Sydney Morning Herald 20/03/00

UN strengthens security along border

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent, in Suai

United Nations security along East Timor's 172-kilometre-long border with Indonesia has been drastically strengthened after a series of incursions by pro-Jakarta militia.

The Australian commander in the area, Brigadier Duncan Lewis, said day and night helicopter surveillance and foot and mechanised patrols had been stepped up since the start of the month. The number of fixed observation posts near the border had been increased, as had UNTAET's presence in local villages near the border.

"This operation is as much to gain the confidence of local residents as it is to prevent militia operations."

The UNTAET peacekeeping force took over from the Australian-led international force in East Timor a month ago.

Within days pro-Jakarta militia began a series of probes along the border to test UN military strength, and in their boldest strike since the handover at least 15 heavily armed militia crossed the frontier 11 days ago in an unsuccessful operation to assassinate pro-independence leaders living at Atsabe, in the Central Highlands.

The militia narrowly escaped capture by a New Zealand-led force, and were believed to be back in West Timor, local Timorese sources said.

Brigadier Lewis said he was satisfied with the strength of the border taskforce and he could call on up to 1,500 soldiers from four countries if required.

Helicopters equipped with infra-red surveillance equipment were also being used to detect any unauthorised night-time activity along the border.

However, his best source of intelligence on militia activity came from local residents, Brigadier Lewis said.

"The militia should not be over-estimated in terms of military muscle. They are poorly equipped, poorly trained and poorly armed."

The UNTAET chief administrator, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, said last week that the Indonesian military were continuing to support pro-Jakarta militia in breach of assurances by Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid that the militia would be disarmed.

The Age [Melbourne] Monday 20 March 2000

Jakarta accuses Australia of illegal flights


Claims that Australian aircraft have violated Indonesian airspace have prompted calls in Jakarta for unauthorised flights to be shot down.

Reflecting a growing anger, Mr Yasril Ananta Baharuddin, the chairman of a parliamentary investigation committee, said: "We should just shoot them down. We have been patient for too long. Let the international community decide who is wrong."

Indonesia's Attorney-General, Mr Marzuki Darusman, told The Age at the weekend it was important for the accusations, which have been discussed in Cabinet, to be quickly clarified. "It may be true ... It may not be true, but it has to be sorted out," he said.

Indonesian air force chiefs have made repeated claims over several days about illegal flights over eastern Indonesia, including at least 10 in the past two months. Last month, Indonesia sent a diplomatic note to the Australian embassy in Jakarta protesting about alleged illegal flights over Ambon last November at the height of religious and ethnic fighting in the island group.

Denials from Australia that its aircraft flew through Indonesia airspace without permission have failed to satisfy the Government. The President, Mr Abdurrahman Wahid, indicated to Indonesian journalists late last week that a new protest would be lodged with Australia over so-called "black flights".

Air Vice-Marshal Alimunsiri Rappe said: "Our radar monitoring showed the high frequency of the Australian aircrafts' violations of our territorial sovereignty."

Vice-Marshal Alimunsiri warned that intruders into Indonesian airspace could be chased away or forced to land. "If the plane continues to ignore the warning, we have no choice but destroy it," he was quoted by the Detik newsagency as saying.

"Up until now, not a single bullet has been fired, either from the ground or from the air, at foreign aircraft that have intruded into our airspace." Air-Marshal Alimunsiri admitted that some foreign aircraft detected by radar might have had clearance to pass through Indonesia's airspace but clearance documents had not been passed on in time.

He said the number of air defence personnel and war planes in eastern Indonesia would be increased.

Indonesia has announced plans to build a new air force base in Kupang, West Timor, which adjoins the UN-controlled territory of East Timor.

The Air Force Chief of Staff, Marshal Hanafie Asnan, said: "When East Timor becomes a sovereign state soon, there will certainly be foreign flights flying into the new state that will pass through Indonesia's airspace. We must monitor these flights because certain people may have negative intentions."

Some Indonesian newspapers have referred to so-called "spy flights". Air-Marshal Alimunsiri said Australian military aircraft might be testing Indonesia's air defence system. Mr Baharuddin, an MP with the former ruling party Golkar, was quoted by the newspaper, Media Indonesia, as saying he had asked the Government to be stricter with violators of Indonesia's airspace.

He claimed repeated violations and said "There would be nothing wrong with the Indonesian Air Force shooting down these planes to protect the sovereignty of Indonesia and its people".

Indonesian officials say the reports of illegal flights are fuelling renewed anti-Australian sentiments in Jakarta as the Howard Government prepares for a visit by Mr Wahid, possibly in late May. The visit is seen as crucial in restoring relations that ruptured last year over Australian leadership of international forces in East Timor.

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