Subject: LUSA: Defense forces hunt down militiamen after weekend attack

09-01-2003 19:29:00. Notícia nº 4526770…

East Timor: Defense forces hunt down militiamen after weekend attack

Dili, Jan. 9 (Lusa) - The East Timor Defense Force (ETDF) is currently mounting counter-insurgency operations in an attempt to capture presumed anti-independence militiamen who raided two villages Saturday and killed several inhabitants, the ETDF's commander said Thursday.

Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak told Lusa many of the troops searching in mountainous terrain southwest of Dili for the insurgents, who are believed to have "infiltrated" from West Timor in December, were former Falintil guerillas who fought against occupying Indonesian forces.

Earlier Thursday, security forces found the bodies of two men missing since last weekend's attack and officials said two armed former anti-independence militiamen had been captured in a separate action.

The discovery of the two bodies in a gully near the town of Atsabe, about 60 kms southwest of Dili, raised the number of casualties in the Saturday attacks to five dead and five wounded.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri told Lusa that the two armed men captured Wednesday night in the mountainous area of Bazartete, not far from Atsabe, were "clearly ex-militias", part of a group that "infiltrated" East Timor from Indonesia on Dec. 13.

While exonerating Jakarta of any responsibility, Alkatiri said it was clear the infiltrated band had crossed the border from West Timor "to cause instability and provoke disturbances".

He stressed he believed Jakarta had "no interest" in promoting "such things", but that "retrograde people" of the former Indonesian regime "could hold another position".

The infiltrators, Alkatiri said, appeared to have formed a "tactical alliance" with a group of local discontents, known as Colimau 2000, who have operated in the region for months.

While the local band, allegedly composed largely of unemployed former nationalist guerrillas, was bent on robbing and looting, the former pro-Jakarta militiamen aimed to "provoke instability", Alkatiri said.

He personally had raised the potential security threat with the UN mission in Dili since reports of raids on villages in the southwest first surfaced in November, Alkatiri said.

Lack of action by UN forces, who are still responsible for the country's security, could be explained by the wave of rumors and instability recently lived in East Timor that might have led the UN to underestimate the potential threat, Alkatiri told Lusa.

ASP/SAS/CJB -Lusa-

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