Subject: AP: Foreign Minister Speaks Out on E. Timor Riots
Minister Speaks Out on E. Timor Riots Sat Dec 7, 4:46 AM ET
By JOSE BELO, Associated Press Writer
DILI, East Timor (AP) - East Timor's foreign minister charged Saturday that pro-Indonesia militiamen were behind the riots that raged in the capital earlier this week, and he said the violence could undermine investor confidence in the newly independent country.
Two people were killed and dozens of buildings burned and looted after about 500 students rampaged through the streets of Dili on Wednesday following a protest over the arrest of a student for alleged gang violence. The United Nations (news - web sites) has said the violence appeared to "be part of a planned attack against selected targets" but has refused to single out any one group.
Without offering proof, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said he was convinced the riot was the work of pro-Indonesia militiamen, especially since the mob burned down the residence of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.
"The violence was in itself orchestrated and politically motivated," Ramos-Horta said. "We know there are (pro-Jakarta) militiamen involved. It was not an accident that the prime minister's residence was attacked. Who else could have done this?"
Nearly 2,000 civilians in East Timor were believed killed and 250,000 forced to flee their homes when Indonesian troops and pro-Indonesia militias launched a campaign of terror before and after a 1999 independence referendum.
East Timor gained full independence in May after a period of transitional rule by the United Nations following Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation. Militia leaders have been put on trial in Indonesia and East Timor, and militias have not posed a serious threat to the half-island nation since independence.
But Ramos-Horta warned that militiamen were returning to East Timor from neighboring Indonesia and taking advantage of the country's economic troubles.
East Timor was calm Saturday, but security was tight as a small crowd including Ramos-Horta and President Xanana Gusmao held a ceremony marking the 27th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. They laid flowers at the steps of the main government building and held a church service at Montael Catholic Church in Dili.
Shops and restaurant were open most of the day and the cleanup was in full swing on those buildings damaged in the riots. Armed U.N. peacekeepers guarded embassies, government buildings, banks and the city's largest mosque.
Police said that 64 of the 77 people originally detained after the riots had been released. The remaining 13 were expected to be charged with crimes related to the violence, including looting and arson, police said.
The rioting was the worst unrest in East Timor since it became the world's newest nation in May and highlights rising discontent. Most of East Timor's 800,000 people are desperately poor and have not seen the benefits of independence.
Ramos-Horta said the riots damaged the country's image abroad.
"The impact of the violence domestically and internationally has been very serious," Ramos-Horta said. "People were sickened with what happened. No one would expect that we would have this so soon after independence. Internationally, it has undermined our ability to gain the confidence of the international community, particularly foreign investors."
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