Subject: SMH/ E.Timor: Armed militia negotiating return home

Sydney Morning Herald August 23, 2000

Armed militia negotiating return home

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Up to 50 armed pro-Indonesian militia are negotiating with a priest in the small southern town of Alas to disarm and be accepted for resettlement in their former homes on the south coast, a senior United Nations military official said yesterday.

Lieutenant-Colonel Brynjar Nymo said the militia had approached the priest at the weekend. All are thought to be from around Alas, about 20 kilometres south-east of the district capital, Same.

While welcoming the prospect of a mass defection, UN peacekeepers are concerned at how so many armed militia had managed to infiltrate 80 kilometres inside the border. Colonel Nymo said the group remained armed because of widespread disinformation in Indonesian West Timor, including rumours that East Timor was in chaos, unemployment was at 100 per cent, and UN peacekeepers had been separating families and raping women.

Up to 150 armed militia are thought to be in East Timor, including several small groups of extremists, well armed and trained and ready to kill UN peacekeepers. Two peacekeepers, a New Zealander and a Nepalese, have already been killed in clashes with small but highly mobile militia bands operating in the southern mountains.

Colonel Nymo rejected reports of mass refugee movements linked to alleged militia sightings.

In related developments, a UN team arrived in Aileu yesterday to open negotiations with the Falintil independence guerillas, who number about 1,500, on their role in a new East Timor self-defence force.

Specialists from Kings College London have compiled a report that proposes three options. The first, and the closest to what the National Council of Timorese Resistance would like, is a full-time defence force with between 3,000 and 5,000 members.

The second is for a 3,000-strong force, half of them Falintil guerillas and half conscripts doing a year's national service.

The final option proposes a part-time force of 3,000 men and women, half Falintil and half reservists.

Falintil is demanding more involvement in its country's security structure, including an intelligence-gathering role alongside UN peacekeepers at the border.

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