Subject: SMH: Hunt for Timor's looted weapons
- SMH: Hunt for Timor's looted weapons
- Herald-Sun: Weapons seized: Peacekeeping chief hails gun handover
The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Hunt for Timor's looted weapons
Lindsay Murdoch in Dili
EAST TIMOR'S ruling Fretilin party has called for an immediate audit of arms looted from the police armoury, saying it fears many weapons are in the hands of police who deserted their posts.
Stanislau da Silva, a senior member of Fretilin's central committee and the Minister for Agriculture, told the Herald the party was "very, very worried about the number of high-powered weapons" taken by police when the 3000-strong force disintegrated during the violence in Dili.
"We know the police kept their weapons when they ran away," Mr da Silva said. "We know that many of them out there still have them."
Party leaders have said their fear of reprisals by armed anti-Fretilin groups has made them too afraid to speak bluntly during the country's crisis.
The commander of Australia's peacekeeping force in Dili, Mick Slater, told AAP yesterday that his forces had secured most of the military-style weapons listed as missing or in the hands of renegade soldiers. An official handover of more weapons in the mountainous region of Ermera was expected to take place today.
But Brigadier Slater said the weapons causing most concern were those belonging to the police. Troops would this week begin an inventory of the police armouries around the country.
"As part of rebuilding the [police] and getting them to come back and rejoin the force ... I would anticipate that many of those weapons will come back with those individuals," Brigadier Slater said.
Fretilin ministers, including Mr da Silva, raised their concerns about the weapons during a council meeting chaired by the Foreign and Defence Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, on Monday.
Before the police command disintegrated, the police force had 3500 Glock pistols, 88 FNC assault rifles, 180 Steyr assault rifles, 200 Heckler and Koch assault rifles, 20 submachine-guns and 40 shotguns.
At least half the armoury is feared missing.
Vicente da Conceicao, a former guerilla commander known as Railos, said he would hand over 14 high-powered weapons to Australian troops next week.
Mr da Conceicao claims he was asked by the former interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, on behalf of the deposed prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, to establish a hit squad.
Mr Ramos Horta has confirmed he is one of three candidates nominated by Fretilin to be the next prime minister.
Herald-Sun Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Peacekeeping chief hails gun handover
Rob Taylor, Dili
AUSTRALIAN-LED peacekeepers in East Timor believe they have most of the military-style weapons that had been listed as missing or in the hands of renegade security forces.
Taskforce commander Brig. Mick Slater has rejected rumours that vast illegal weapon stocks are hidden in the countryside and pose an ongoing threat to peace.
"If that was the case, I would have expected to have found some of those by now. There's been no physical evidence that I've seen," he said
Most weapons have been surrendered in handovers by renegade groups still in the hills, headed by military police major Alfredo Reinado, army lieutenant Gastao Salsinha and army major Tara.
The only group still with some weapons was the so-called hit squad based in the eastern town of Liquica and headed by whistleblower Vicente da Conceicao, known as Comandante Railos.
"We've secured the weapons from those groups, less Liquica and Railos, and that is largely in the hands of the prosecutor as to how that's going to proceed," Brig. Slater said.
Railos has said ex-prime minister Mari Alkatiri sanctioned the arming of the group to attack his political rivals.
His claim is being probed by East Timor's prosecutor as Dr Alkatiri, backed by the governing Fretilin party, claims immunity from prosecution.
With progress on disarmament, the UN has raised new concerns with peacekeepers.
It says Timorese security forces -- both pro- and anti-Alkatiri -- are not being guarded in their barracks or within containment areas meant to prevent a fresh outbreak of the infighting which spiralled into ethnic gang warfare in May.
Brig. Slater said he was not worried about guns held by the army.
"Their weapons are locked up and secured in those barracks and they have access to those weapons within the barracks, and only in the barracks, for training," he said.
President Xanana Gusmao and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta -- who is a top contender for the prime ministership -- yesterday travelled to army barracks east of Dili to rebuild bridges with the military and talk about recent violence.
With the likely swearing-in of a new government still days away, Brig.
Slater said the more Mr Gusmao was seen on the streets as a unifying factor the better.
"Would I have been happy to see him out there three weeks ago? Yes," he said.