|Subject: The Age: Militia doubts as UN men
also: SMH: Militia rampage terrorises UN visitors
The Age September 26, 2000
Militia doubts as UN men cornered
By MARK DODD DILI
The United Nations administrator of East Timor has questioned Indonesia's ability to disarm militia groups in West Timor after rioting militiamen led by Eurico Guterres forced two UN officials to seek police protection while observing the handover of arms.
UN chief Sergio Vieria de Mello and other UN officials raised doubts about the credibility of the weapons handover, noting that few military weapons were surrendered in the first day of the two-stage plan to disarm the militias.
Jakarta, under intense international pressure, agreed to the disarmament measures after the murder of three UN foreign staff who were hacked to death by militia members in the border town of Atambua three weeks ago.
The two senior UN international staff feared for their lives when militiamen led by Mr Guterres rampaged in the police headquarters in Atambua on Sunday.
The officials, Jonathan Prentice and Fabrizio Hochschild, had been invited to attend a ceremony marking the start of the handover.
"It was more than tense," Mr Hochschild said in Dili yesterday.
"We witnessed in a small degree the terror East Timorese must have faced, or our UNHCR colleagues, in the light of a crowd totally out of control and in the presence of a police force clearly unwilling to assert control."
The riot erupted after senior Indonesian officials on hand to witness the handover, including Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, had left Atambua.
Threats were made against the UN observers, who were bundled into a room at the police station for protection. A police bodyguard armed with a sub-machinegun promised to die to protect the men if the militia stormed the room.
Mr Hochschild said that during the riot at least 12 militiamen in full view of police, who failed to act, walked out with weapons they had earlier handed over.
Jakarta has given the militia until tomorrow to hand in their weapons before having them forcibly seized.
"The mere fact that despite the presence of Vice-President Megawati ... Mr Eurico Guterres can suddenly come in usual manner to the very headquarters of the Indonesian police in Atambua, casts doubt on the ability of the Indonesian authorities to bring the militia under control," Mr de Mello said.
Sydney Morning Herald September 26, 2000
Militia rampage terrorises UN visitors
Mark Dodd, Herald Correspondent in Dili
Two senior United Nations staff visiting West Timor feared for their lives when militia, led by the notorious Eurico Guterres, rampaged through the Indonesian police headquarters in the border town of Atambua on Sunday.
Mr Jonathan Prentice and Mr Fabrizio Hochschild had been invited by Indonesian authorities to attend a ceremony marking the voluntary handover of weapons by militia to the security forces in West Timor.
The hand-in was ordered by Indonesia following international outrage over the murders in Atambua early this month of three foreigners working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"It was more than tense," Mr Hochschild said yesterday.
"We witnessed in a small degree the terror East Timorese must have faced or our UNHCR colleagues in the light of a crowd totally out of control and in the presence of a police force clearly unwilling to assert control."
The head of UN operations in East Timor, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, left Dili yesterday for New York, where he is scheduled to brief the UN Security Council.
Mr Vieira de Mello was scathing of Indonesia's handling of the militia disarmament, and UN officials said he was expected to condemn the latest security breakdown while in New York.
After the departure from Atambua late on Sunday morning of a group of Indonesian Government officials, including Vice-President Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, a riot erupted inside the police headquarters led by Guterres, the former commander of the Aitarak militia.
He was angered at being unable to meet Ms Megawati, a deliberate move by Indonesian officials who organised the event.
Threats were made against the two UN visitors, who were bundled into a room inside the police station for their protection.
A police bodyguard with a cocked Uzi submachine-gun pointed at the door promised to die to protect them if the militia stormed into the room.
Mr Hochschild said that during the riot at least 12 militiamen seized the UN officers' weapons, which had been handed over earlier, and walked out of the police compound fully armed and in full view of Indonesian police, who failed to take any action.
Their experience highlights the continuing failure of Indonesian authorities to bring armed groups under control.
The deadline for a voluntary three-day weapons hand-in by the militia is due to expire today, but there were reports from Jakarta that it had been delayed until tomorrow. Indonesia has said it will use force afterwards to disarm the militias.
Speaking before he left Dili, Mr Vieira de Mello said: "I never took the three-day persuasive phase seriously. I do not believe militia will voluntarily surrender their weapons, and if they do they would probably surrender their old rotten ones and keep the modern ones."
Only a handful of military-style assault weapons similar to those used in cross-border attacks on East Timor had been surrendered, senior UN officials said.
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