Subject: Militia shot in E.Timor had Indonesia equipment-UN

Militia shot in E.Timor had Indonesia equipment-UN

SYDNEY, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Two East Timorese militiamen shot dead by Australian United Nations troops were wearing Indonesian army uniforms and carrying weapons issued by Indonesia, a commander with the U.N. force in East Timor said on Thursday.

Brigadier Duncan Lewis said the militiamen were from a gang of about five armed men which clashed with his troops northeast of Maliana, near the border with Indonesian West Timor, on Wednesday.

Tension has been rising near the border, with the U.N. peacekeeping force suffering its first combat casualty when a New Zealand soldier was shot dead by suspected pro-Jakarta militia near the town of Suai on July 24.

International agencies on Wednesday suspended the repatriation of East Timorese refugees from West Timor because of death threats against their staff.

Lewis said both the dead militiamen -- the first killed by the U.N.'s East Timor force -- were wearing Indonesian army camouflage fatigues and were carrying arms known to be in the inventory of the Indonesian armed forces.

``We have gunmen that have been coming across the border since February when our force started operations here in East Timor,'' Lewis told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

``They have been coming across the border wearing Indonesian uniforms, carrying a range of weapons and ammunition that has Indonesian origin and you would have to make your own conclusions from that,'' he said.

Lewis said he had no evidence that the militias were receiving direct support from Indonesia. The equipment found with the bodies was widely issued to militias before Indonesia pulled out of its former territory of East Timor last year, Lewis said.


``The wearing of Indonesian uniforms is not uncommon in this part of the world,'' Lewis said.

``But what is distressing is that some of their equipment was relatively new and I just find it a little unusual that people would be equipped with relatively new military equipment coming across, perhaps, from West Timor,'' he said.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the gunfight on Wednesday was a reminder that the U.N. force was engaged in a dangerous operation.

``There is still a lot of hostility from the militias,'' Howard told Adelaide radio 5DN. ``There is danger to our men and women.''

Maliana is in a sector patrolled by an Australian battalion attached to the U.N. East Timor administration, known as UNTAET, which includes a peacekeeping force of 9,000 troops.

East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia last August, prompting a backlash from sections of the military, police and armed, pro-Jakarta militias.

Indonesia has long been under pressure to control the armed gangs who operate across the border in West Timor where up to 120,000 refugees remain in squalid conditions after fleeing last year's violence when East Timor voted to quit Jakarta's rule.

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