Subject: UN Timor attack possibly political: Yudhoyono

UN Timor attack possibly political: security minister

JAKARTA, Sept 7 (AFP) - Indonesia's top security minister on Thursday refused to rule out a political motive behind the savage attack in West Timor that claimed at least five lives, including three UN staff members.

"I will not rule out the possibility of political motives behind this incident," Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told journalists.

Yudhoyono, speaking on behalf of the government after a meeting to discuss the violence, also expressed regret over the deaths.

"The Indonesian government is really regretting the incident. We feel concerned and extend our condolences for the UNHCR personnel who became the victims in this incident," Yudhoyono said.

He also said that the government "will continue to undertake efforts to investigate and take legal actions over this incident."

A team of 10 officers had already arrested 16 people in connection with the attack and they were being held for questioning, he said.

When asked what he believed was the motive behind the violence, Yudhoyono declined to speculate, saying that the investigation was still in progress.

"Any possibility could have happened but we will further investigate this incident," he said.

He said that besides the three foreign casualties, two local people had been killed and scores of houses burned.

He said that two locals had become embroiled in a dispute over refugees but did not elaborate.

Yudhoyono said that the Indonesian security authority had always protected staff members of international organizations working in West Timor but Thursday's violence was "a special case."

"It does not mean that we have not done everything in the first 12 months, in protecting the refugees, in securing the area and in solving problems in the vincinity of Atambua and Kupang," he said.

He called the situation in West Timor "very difficult" and said it was "moving very fast."

Hundreds of pro-Indonesian militiamen, wielding machetes, had gathered in Atambua Wednesday for the funeral of a militia leader killed by unknown assassins the day before. The crowds had then rampaged through the town, attacking and burning the UNHCR office and several other buildings.

The foreign victims were identified as American Carlos Casaeres, Ethiopian Samson Aregaheyen and Croat Peril Simundze.

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