Subject: AP: Former pro-Indonesia militia may be caching weapons near ET: military

Also: Ex-East Timor Militia Gang Armed to Teeth, Set to Attack

Former pro-Indonesia militia may be caching weapons near East Timor: military

May 1, 2004 3:27am

Associated Press WorldStream

JAKARTA, Indonesia_The Indonesian military is investigating reports that pro-Jakarta militiamen are stockpiling weapons along the border between East and West Timor, an officer said Saturday.

"We don't know how many are stashed. We suspect that the weapons were from past unrest," said Indonesian Army Col. Moeswarno Moesanip, who is in charge of security in the region.

Moesanip said the group may have caches of firearms, hand grenades, and ammunition buried along the mountainous border that divides the island, but added no weapons would have been hidden in Indonesia-ruled West Timor. He did not elaborate.

The Jakarta Post, quoting Moesanip in a report Saturday, said former East Timor-based militiamen may use the arms in raids into their one-time homeland from West Timor. Moesanip told The Associated Press Saturday he was misquoted.

"We don't know what they are planning. They are lying low," Moesanip said.

A former militia chief, Eurico Guterres, now based in West Timor's provincial capital Kupang, denied the rebels were caching weapons or planning assaults in East Timor.

"We have no plans for armed incursions," Guterres said. "We gave all our weapons to the military."

The Indonesian army recruited thousands of militiamen in the final days of its 24-year occupation of East Timor in 1999, in an effort to intimidate the population into voting against independence in a U.N.-organized referendum.

But four-fifths of the voters opted for independence _ and after the poll, Indonesia's army and its auxiliaries laid waste to the province, killing at least 1,500 civilians, destroying most of its housing and infrastructure and forcing nearly half of its 600,000 people into exile.

The reign of terror was cut short by the arrival of international peacekeepers, who promptly kicked Indonesian forces out of the territory they'd invaded in 1975.

Thousands of militiamen fled with the troops. Many have returned home in the past four years, but several thousand have stayed in Indonesia's West Timor province _ the other half of the island where East Timor is located, several hundred kilometers (miles) north of Australia.

Although some militia have made sporadic attempts to infiltrate East Timor, the border area has been mostly quiet since 2000.

Several thousand U.N. soldiers remain in East Timor. Most are scheduled to pull out in the next several months, when the newly established East Timorese army will take over security duties.

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The Jakarta Post Saturday, May 1, 2004

Ex-East Timor Militia Gang Armed to Teeth, Set to Attack

Yemris Fointuna, Kupang

A joint military and police force in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) are keeping a watch on pro-Indonesia militiamen suspected of attempting to create chaos in neighboring East Timor.

The militia are hoarding thousands of firearms, grenades and ammunition in NTT territory bordering East Timor, the Indonesian Military (TNI) said on Friday.

"There is the intention on the part of militia to create chaos in Timor Leste (East Timor). They still have many guns buried in border areas," said Wirasakti 161 military commander Col. Moeswarno Moesanip overseeing security in NTT province.

He said soldiers and paramilitary Mobile Brigade police stationed in the border area were intensively monitoring the activities of around 20 militia leaders and members reported to be gathering there.

The men often smuggle Indonesian goods into East Timor, while studying security conditions in the newly born country, Moesanip said, quoting TNI intelligence officers.

It was not clear why the militiamen were not immediately arrested when it was discovered they were smuggling goods into East Timor.

Why nor Moesanip divulged the plans of the pro-Jakarta militia group to launch an attack on East Timor, instead of keeping them secret to search for their guns and arrest them was not clear.

It had widely been reported earlier that the TNI hired militiamen to help soldiers challenge independence fighters in East Timor during Indonesia's occupation of the territory between 1970 and 1999.

The military-backed militia were blamed for the rampage that followed East Timor's vote for independence in August 1999. Only a number of militia leaders were jailed for the mayhem, while senior TNI officers who were then responsible for security in the territory remained free.

However, Moesanip refuted claims that the TNI and police backed militia to destabilize East Timor, and vowed to shoot them on sight should they perpetrate new violence there.

The most effective measure to prevent militia attacks, according to him, would be to reopen the three traditional markets in the NTT-East Timor border area, which were closed after a shooting incident last year.

"The Timor Leste government should support the reopening of the three legal markets, so the activities of traders including militiamen can be controlled," Moesanip argued.

Otherwise, illegal markets would increase and security forces would be unable to curb militia activities at border areas, he added.

Moesanip said the East Timor authorities were worried about increasing militia operations at border areas ahead of the pullout of the United Nation Peacekeeping Force from the neighboring country, which is scheduled for early June.

With the planned UN withdrawal threats of militia attacks in East Timor have increased.


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