Subject: AFP: Australia says high risk of terrorist attacks in East Timor

Agence France Presse

February 11, 2003

Australia says high risk of terrorist attacks in East Timor

Australia's government warned Tuesday of a high risk of terrorist attacks in East Timor and cautioned its citizens in the fledgling nation about travelling near the border with Indonesia.

A travel advisory from the foreign affairs department said Australians should exercise extreme caution due to reports of possible terrorist attacks against Australian, United Nations and Western interests in East Timor.

"Threats against Australians and Australian interests in East Timor are high," the department said.

It said there was a particular need for caution near the border with Indonesia, where pro-Jakarta militias killed six East Timorese villagers last month.

"Travellers should not travel alone, particularly at night," the government said.

Australians were also warned to avoid political rallies following recent civil disturbances and told "a number of incidents of assault, burglary and theft in Dili have involved foreigners as victims".

Canberra closed its embassy in Dili for a week last September because of security fears but said the mission was now fully operational.

East Timor won independence from 24 years of Indonesian rule last May after a long and bloody struggle, which culminated in a rampage by militias after an overwhelming vote for independence by the East Timorese in August 1999.

Jose Guterres, chief of staff to East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, last month said militias operating near the border with Indonesia were aiming to destabilise the Dili government because they did not accept the referendum result.

He did not believe the militias were backed by the Indonesian government, which he said had accepted the result.

Australia contributes 1,000 troops to the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor and is expected to extend its commitment to the end of 2004, beyond the UN mandate, which expires in May this year.

Australia also has significant interests in East Timor's lucrative liquefied natural gas fields.

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