Subject: SMH/Timor: Militiaman wounded in border skirmish

Sydney Morning Herald May 12, 2000

Militiaman wounded in skirmish


Dili: At least one suspected militiaman was wounded in a heavy exchange of fire between Australian peacekeepers and a group of pro-Jakarta militia who had crossed into East Timor yesterday, a senior United Nations military official said.

"Military casualties still are not known. No peacekeeping force soldiers were injured in the exchange of fire," said Captain Dan Hurren, spokesman for the UN's Sector West, that covers the border region between East and West Timor. "However, a short time after the exchange, one of the suspected militiamen presented himself at a TNI [Indonesian army] post suffering from gunshot wounds."

Captain Hurren said the incident happened close to Batugade, less than a kilometre from the West Timor border.

It ends four weeks of relative peace along the border and underscores the determination of hard-core pro-Jakarta militia to continue to wage armed cross-border incursions from bases in Indonesian West Timor.

In an interview with the Herald last month, the Sector West commander, Australian Brigadier Duncan Lewis, warned that his soldiers would maintain a high state of readiness while armed militia roamed freely across the border in West Timor.

He estimated the number of hard-core militiamen to be a "few hundred" while total pro-Jakarta militia strength was about 1,500.

Captain Hurren said the five-man patrol comprising soldiers from 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment was conducting a routine patrol security operation south of Batugade when it was fired on without warning at close range.

"The weight of fire directed against the PKF [peacekeeping force] was considerable," he said.

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