Subject: SMH: Militia fears halt road aid project in E. Timor

Sydney Morning Herald August 9, 2000

Militia fears halt road aid project

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

The United Nations mission in East Timor, faced with increasing militia violence over the past three weeks, has suspended a $1.5 million road repair project amid security concerns for Australian contractors and other workers.

It is the first time since February that the threat of pro-Jakarta militia violence has stopped humanitarian work, in this case emergency road repairs linking Bobonaro, in East Timor's mountainous south-west, to Zumulai, on the southern coast.

Tasmania-based contractors Hazell Brothers stopped work on Monday on the advice of Dili-based UN security advisers.

A company spokesman, Mr Louis Stevens, said it was hoped work could resume as soon as security improved. In the meantime, 300 East Timorese employees would be relocated to another road project.

The project was suspended after locals reported that a militia force of about 30 had been seen moving north-east towards Ainaro.

A UN spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Brynjar Nymo, said the militia had made contact with local residents, asking for food and inquiring about the presence of peacekeepers and aid workers.

He said latest estimates of the number of armed militia inside East Timor ranged from four to five groups, each comprising 10 to 15 insurgents, making a maximum of 75 armed militia at large.

The Zumalai-Ainaro region was the base last year of the Mahidi (Life or Death Integration) militia, one of the most violent of the pro-Jakarta paramilitaries.

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