Subject: Home Affairs Minister Rogerio Lobato vows to catch rioters

Last Update: Wednesday, March 29, 2006. 8:22pm (AEDT)

East Timor MP vows to catch rioters

East Timor's Home Affairs Minister Rogerio Lobato has vowed to catch the men behind weekend riots in the capital Dili, as President Xanana Gusmao expresses concern at the security situation.

Authorities say some of the men were among 591 recently-dismissed soldiers who deserted the tiny nation's fledgling Army in protest over working conditions, although their representative has denied the men's involvement.

"We will arrest all the rioters with the help of the people," Mr Lobato said.

Police have not said how many people were involved but witnesses say there were skirmishes between groups of up to 25 people.

Police have said four people have so far been arrested in connection with the unrest, two of whom were dismissed soldiers.

The capital remains under tight security with police conducting road checks.

President Xanana Gusmao says he is upset by the current tight security measures and has told soldiers they should not be on armed patrol.

"I am really saddened by hearing that every single night police are conducting intensive patrols causing people to be afraid to go out on the street," he said.

Shop owners have been seen departing the city as public transport dwindled and some people have sought refuge in a church.

"I also heard that there are several armed members of the F-FDTL (the East Timorese armed forces) going around on board taxis as if there is an impending invasion," President Gusmao said.

"If there are such orders ... as the highest military commander, I ask that they be immediately halted, to normalise the situation."

The 591 sacked soldiers, more than a third of the regular armed forces, are mainly former resistance fighters.

About 840 regular soldiers remain in the fledgling Army, plus 1,500 reservists.

Guerrilla forces fought Indonesian troops during almost 24 years of occupation of the former Portuguese colony.


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