Subject: AFP: UNHCR mission attacked in West Timor

Also: Indonesia Condemns Attack On Three UN Workers In W Timor

Tuesday, August 22 8:03 PM SGT

UNHCR mission attacked in West Timor, refugee repatriation suspended

JAKARTA, Aug 22 (AFP) -

Suspected militiamen attacked a UNHCR mission in Indonesia bringing aid to a refugee camp in West Timor on Tuesday, badly beating up three of its members, a UN official there said.

"It was totally without explanation," UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) officer Adelmno Risi told AFP by phone from the West Timor capital of Kupang.

He said the small mission, which counted a Lebanese national among its members, had been handing over non-food aid to refugees at the Naen camp near the town of Kefamenanu, midway between Kupang and the border town of Atambua on Tuesday.

One man in the crowd suddenly rushed at them wielding a machete and hurling abuse.

Men who had minutes earlier been shaking hands with the UNHCR group then started stoning the mission and chased them for 500 meters, beating them as they caught up with them, he said.

A village chief in Naen saved the group by jumping in the abandoned UNHCR jeep and rushing to their aid.

"One staffer was beaten several times in the head, and the other had his hand beaten quite violently and he's having problems now with moving it," Risi said adding that both had been released from hospital after treatment.

The mission's local driver was held in a building by the suspected militia, threatened and kicked in the face for 20 minutes before he managed to escape with a broken nose, he added.

Asked if the attackers were East Timorese militia, Risi replied: "It's possible ... to be honest a militia doesn't have to have militia written on his head to be identified."

The attack came as another UN agency in West Timor said it had suspended repatriation of East Timorese refugees over land from Indonesia-controlled West Timor until September 5, citing harrassment and "sensitive dates."

"Basically there are some 'red letter' days we are trying to avoid," Jose Remigio of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told AFP by phone from Kupang.

Remigio cited two anniversaries -- of the August 30, 1999 ballot in which East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence, and the subsequent September 4 announcement of the results of the vote.

He said that, anyway, repatriation had been made impossible by militia road blocks set up between the squalid refugee camps in the north of West Timor and the border with UN-administered East Timor.

The militia, who waged a scorched-earth campaign after the East Timor vote, fled west when international troops arrived and now control the camps.

Remigio said they were using the road blocks to try to stop traders selling scarce fuel across the border.

The IOM, which along with the UNHCR, pulled most of its personnel out of the border town of Atambua due to militia threats earlier this month, also faced losing its office there, Remigio said.

In the wake of the independence vote, some 250,000 East Timorese fled or were forced at gunpoint out of the former Portuguese territory which had been occupied by Indonesia since 1975.

Since then, some 180,000 have returned.

Under pressure to dismantle the camps because of a growing number of border incidents in which two UN peacekeepers in East Timor have been shot dead, Indonesia has pledged to move those who want to stay in Indonesia away from the border and allow those who want to return home to do so within three months. 

Associated Press August 24, 2000

Indonesia Condemns Attack On Three UN Workers In W Timor

JAKARTA (AP)--Indonesia's government condemned Thursday an attack by anti-independence militias on three U.N. aid workers in West Timor.

In a statement, Indonesia's department of foreign affairs said it was opposed to the violence last Tuesday that left three U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees workers badly beaten after trying to distribute relief supplies to East Timorese refugees at a camp.

On Wednesday, a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva said the world body was suspending operations in the region due to the threat of more violence.

More than 250,000 people fled their homes when pro-Indonesia militiamen went on a violent rampage in East Timor, angry that the overwhelming majority of people had voted to secede from Indonesia in a U.N.-sponsored ballot last August.

The violence ended when international forces landed in the territory in September. Most refugees have since returned home, but about 80,000 - mainly militiamen and their families - remain in camps in West Timor.

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