Subject: LUSA: Armed gangs represent 'real threat' to security - UNMISET

05-03-2003 12:17:00. Notícia nº SIR-4744342

East Timor: Armed gangs represent 'real threat' to security - UNMISET

Dili, March 5 (Lusa) - Armed gangs, including former anti- independence militiamen, represent a "real threat" to East Timor's security, the UN mission in Dili said Wednesday.

In a statement, UNMISET said that documents and interrogations of four captured members of a gang that carried out a deadly road ambush last week indicated that some of the armed groups had received military training and were operating with "sophistication".

"Despite this, the UN peacekeeping force is optimistic that a firm and rapid response will give security...and send a strong message to any group that tries to cause violence in East Timor", UNMISET added.

The statement was issued one day after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended the Security Council freeze planned reductions this year of the peacekeeping force, saying there was mounting "credible evidence" that fomer pro-Indonesia "militias and armed groups" were setting up bases in East Timor to "destabilize" the 10-month-old independent state.

Timorese and UN officials have said there were indications that up to seven armed groups had infiltrated from Indonesian West Timor since December.

UNMISET said a camp overrun by UN peacekeepers during a firefight west of Dili Thursday showed the band had received "careful military training".

In his report to the Security Council Tuesday, Annan said that acts of violence in East Timor during the past three months indicated the need to "modify the plan of withdrawal" of UN peacekeeping forces.

He recommended the UN maintain its current force of 3,853 peacekeepers and 730 police through the end of the year.

The original planned called for a phased reduction to 1,750 by year's end.

Peacekeeping forces are scheduled to depart fully from East Timor by June 2004.

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