Subject: W Timor Militias Try To Take Control Of Border Region

Associated Press August 23, 2000

W Timor Militias Try To Take Control Of Border Region

JAKARTA (AP)--Anti-independence militia fighters have set up roadblocks in Indonesian-controlled West Timor and are trying to take control of the border region with neighboring East Timor, a U.N. official said Wednesday.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Jake Morland said the situation was now very tense in the region and he accused Indonesia's military of doing nothing to stop the militia gangs.

He said the four roadblocks had been set up between the town of Atambua and the nearby border with East Timor and the militiamen were preventing East Timorese refugees trying to return home from traveling along the road.

"They are trying to control the border area on their side," he said in a phone interview from West Timor. "Indonesia's military is fully capable of moving them but has done nothing."

Indonesian military officials in West Timor couldn't be reached for comment.

Morland said that three UNHCR staff were badly beaten Tuesday by militiamen while trying to distribute relief supplies to a refugee camp, about 60 miles west of the border.

He said gang members attacked the staff with machetes and sticks. Two of them escaped after being beaten while a third staff member was captured and taken to a nearby rice paddy and had his head held under water. He later managed to escape with the help of some refugees.

Clashes between pro-Indonesia groups and U.N. peacekeepers in East Timor have become more frequent recently and there is growing speculation that sections of Indonesia's military have been arming and training the gangs.

Two U.N. peacekeepers have been killed and four others wounded in fighting so far. Several militiamen have also been killed.

The United Nations has complained repeatedly that militiamen are using West Timor as a base for border incursions.

East Timor voted for independence last Aug. 30 in a U.N.-sponsored ballot. Afterward, tens of thousands of people fled their homes when pro-Indonesia militiamen reacted by going on a violent rampage.

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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