Subject: AP: Bishop Bello apologizes to E. Timor's Muslims
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
East Timor, Muslim Leaders Meet
By FIRDIA LISNAWATI, Associated Press Writer
DILI, East Timor, Dec. 6 (AP) - Nobel Peace laureate Bishop Carlos Bello apologized for the violence against the country's Muslim minority Friday, and the president met with foreign dignitaries in the wake of deadly riots that killed three and left parts of the capital in ruins.
Dili remained calm, and witnesses said some shops opened for the first time since angry protesters rampaged through the streets Wednesday, burning, looting and vandalizing dozens of buildings, including the city's largest mosque.
Armed U.N. peacekeepers guarded banks and government buildings, including the parliament.
Trouble started Tuesday after 500 students gathered at police headquarters in Dili to demand the release of a fellow student arrested for alleged gang violence. On Wednesday, students started throwing stones at Timorese and U.N. police guards.
Witnesses said police opened fire on the crowd. Soon after, protesters ran through the streets, burning and looting shops, hotels, government buildings and the residence of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.
Bello joined Alkatiri at the Al Munawaroh Mosque to take part in prayer services celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the holiday ending the holy month of Ramadan. Without mentioning the attack on the An Nur Mosque, he apologized in general for the violence against Muslims.
Windows were broken at the mosque, four cars burned and a small shop connected to mosque destroyed, witnesses said.
"I apologize on behalf of the Christian people for the violence against the Muslims," he said. "I wish for peace and solidarity among the East Timorese people. We have to work together even though we come from different religions."
East Timor's 800,000 citizens are mostly Roman Catholic, but Dili is home to a small Muslim community and two mosques.
Meanwhile, President Xanana Gusmao met with foreign dignitaries what his government was doing to prevent more violence. So far, police have arrested 80 people and vowed to hold those responsible accountable.
The violence — the worst since the country became independent in Mayy — has prompted some foreigners to leave the country. The U.N. provided two planes Thursday for dependents of U.N. staff wishing to leave.
Alkatiri said two people died in the fighting, but hospital officials said Friday that a third had died from his injuries. Four others were seriously injured and 20 people received minor injures.
Alkatiri said there would be an independent commission of inquiry, in addition to a legislative commission, to determine the causes of this week's violence and whether security forces had committed any abuses.
Wednesday's violence was the worst since pro-Indonesian gangs and the Indonesian military laid waste to much of East Timor, a former Portuguese territory, after its people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a 1999 referendum. International peacekeepers intervened to halt the violence and placed East Timor under U.N. rule until independence in May.
The United Nations still assists with security and other matters, maintaining more than 2,200 military and civilian personnel in the country. The U.N. mission is scheduled to end in June 2004.
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