Subject: LUSA: Army deployed after Dili riots leave at least two dead, 34 injured

28-04-2006 19:47:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-7945827 Temas:

East Timor: Army deployed after Dili riots leave at least two dead, 34 injured

Dili, April 28 (Lusa) - The government ordered the army to help restore order in East Timor's capital Friday, after two people were killed and 34 wounded, including three officers, in clashes between police and soldiers protesting their dismissal from the tiny Defense Force.

Interior Minister Rogério Lobato, who participated in crisis talks with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta, told Lusa the government was adopting "more muscular measures" to deal with the unrest.

"They will all be arrested if necessary", Lobato said of the hundreds of sacked soldiers and supporters who rioted across Dili for hours earlier Friday, assaulting government headquarters, stoning buildings, and burning cars and market stalls.

"This is a matter of the Timorese State", the minister said after visiting the three injured officers, one seriously wounded by machete blows. "It is necessary to guarantee stability, to guarantee this country as a nation, united an indivisible".

A government communiqué released late Friday evening in Dili blamed the bloody clashes on "young opportunists linked to Osósio Leki", leader of the shadowy Colimau 2000 group of ex-guerrillas and disgruntled villagers.

Leki wants to turn his group, legal under Timorese law, into a political party, the government statement added.

Police Superintendent Paulo Martins told Lusa that army units had been deployed between the city center and the outlying western suburb of Taci Tolo, where many of the rioters gathered late Friday afternoon after the downtown rampage and clashes with police.

The violence erupted on the fifth day of round-the-clock protests by hundreds of sacked soldiers and supporters when a group of demonstrators tried to storm the government's headquarters, stoning the building and setting cars afire, witnesses told Lusa.

Police fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators from around the government headquarters and at other flashpoints in the city, including the Taibesse market, the scene of earlier violence.

President Xanana Gusmão was following events from Cinzas Palace and Alkatiri met with key cabinet ministers at his residence to discuss the crisis, officials said.

Shops and offices closed after the violence erupted during the late morning, leaving downtown Dili largely deserted for the remainder of the day.

The Portuguese and Australian diplomatic missions cautioned their resident nationals to remain indoors.

There were no reports of injuries among the large Portuguese expatriate community, composed mostly of aid workers.

The clashes broke out the day after nearly 600 soldiers dismissed from the 1,600-strong army two months ago over labor disputes rejected the government's offer Thursday to set up a top- level commission to investigate their allegations of regional discrimination in the military.

The prime minister's office announced Friday morning that it now considered the demonstrations by the disgruntled soldiers, underway in Dili since Monday, "illegal" and that authorities would re-impose order.

During the demonstrations earlier in the week, some of the sacked soldiers threatened to make "war" against the government if their demands were not met.

The director of the national hospital, António Caleres, told Lusa at least two people had been killed and 34 wounded by gunfire and stabbings.

A tour of downtown Dili by Lusa found three burnt-out cars and many shattered windows at the main government building. Smoke was seen rising from burning street market stalls.

A building housing Portuguese and Australian diplomatic offices and Portugal's RDP radio bureau was also stoned.



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