Subject: New Zealand urges Indon to track down peacekeeper killers

New Zealand urges Indonesia to track down peacekeeper killers

AUCKLAND, July 25 (AFP) - New Zealand Tuesday urged Indonesia to track down and punish the killers of a UN peacekeeper shot in the head and stripped of his rifle and ammunition by suspected militia in East Timor.

"We would certainly want to see Indonesia do everything within its powers to disarm the militia that continue to raid across the border," said New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

Goff said he would meet Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab in Bangkok this week to voice Wellington's concerns over the soldier's death.

"Dr Shihab and Indonesia must take responsibility for law, order and security in and around refugee camps in West Timor," he said.

"This tragic incident underscores the urgent need for renewed determination to disarm and disband militia groups."

Private Leonard William Manning, 24, was shot twice Monday afternoon when New Zealand troops tracking militia fighters in a rugged border area near Suai came under fire.

He was the first combat casualty since the United Nations-backed peace enforcement team arrived in the former Indonesian territory last September and New Zealand's first combat casualty since the Vietnam war.

His body, stripped of his rifle and ammunition by his killers, lay overnight where it first fell but has since been recovered.

The New Zealand-based joint force commander Brigadier Jerry Mateparae told reporters about four or five shots were fired, followed by a burst of automatic gunfire.

The New Zealand troops returned fire and withdrew to a more secure area. It was during that process that Manning was shot.

"When you are being shot at you come back to a position where you are a lot more secure," Mateparae said. "What I have heard is that he was shot in the back of the head as he was running and also in the right shoulder."

New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark said she was shocked.

"The East Timor deployment was one that occured last year and was supported by the whole parliament but I think everyone was conscious that peacekeeping can be extremely dangerous and we've seen that in this incident," she said.

"I feel very shocked and upset for the family."

Manning is expected to be given a full military funeral, if his family wants it, army officials said.

United Nation's representative for the former Portuguese colony, Sergio Vieira de Mello, warned the death could have serious repercussions for stability on East Timor

"This endangers everything we have been trying to achieve since we arrived in East Timor," he told reporters in Bangkok.

De Mello said it was the third serious attack on UN peacekeeping troops, the last involving a grenade tossed at Australian soldiers, injuring one.

Independence hero Xanana Gusmao, in Bangkok with de Mello, voiced similar concerns, saying the private's death was a "real threat" to the peace and reconciliation process.

"We do not want to have more victims in this process," he said.

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

Nearly 9,000 UN troops took over from the initial Australian-led intervention force sent in to restore order after the spree of violence.

New Zealand Defence Chief Air Marshal Carey Adamson said last week the defence force was working on an "exit strategy" for East Timor that could result in withdrawal of all its 660 troops in four months.


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