Subject: BBC: UN pulls staff from E Timor chaos



UN pulls staff from E Timor chaos

The United Nations has ordered all its non-essential staff out of East Timor, which has been hit by a fresh outburst of violence.

Militias armed with guns and machetes have rampaged though the capital, Dili, torching houses and vehicles.

Hundreds of people ran screaming from their homes, seeking shelter in churches, as Australian troops in tanks tried to restore order.

The fighting has left at least 20 people dead in the past week.

Australian troops in tanks rebuffed a group of men armed with machetes who had gathered in the centre of the capital, Dili.

The BBC's Phil Mercer, in Dili, says the troops have made a difference, but adds that immense challenges lie ahead.


The Australian soldiers are to be reinforced in the coming days by hundreds more troops, as well as forces from Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal.

However, many non-essential UN staff are pulling out and face evacuation to Darwin in northern Australia, a UN spokeswoman said.

TENSIONS MOUNT Feb: More than 400 troops strike over pay and conditions March: Government sacks nearly 600 of 1,400-man army April: Rioting by sacked troops leaves five people dead May: Violence intensifies; government appeals for foreign assistance

About 390 people will be flown out, starting this weekend, leaving about 50 staff to keep the UN mission to East Timor (Unmiset) running.

Civilian militias - groups of youths who have aligned themselves with one of the sides in a military dispute that has split the nation - roamed through neighbourhoods in southern Dili early on Saturday, pelting houses with rocks and setting them on fire.

The unrest began in March, when nearly 600 of the army's original force of 1,400 went on strike for better working conditions. They were subsequently sacked.

They have since gone to the hills, from where they have threatened to launch a civil war.

Tension has turned to violence and five people were killed in clashes in April. Tens of thousands fled Dili fearing further unrest.

Death tolls

Correspondents say political infighting and ethnic gang rivalry have added to the violence.

Some of the suspicion dates back to Indonesia's occupation of the country.

"This is an opportunity for revenge," said priest Jose Antonio, who is trying to care for hundreds of people who have sought refuge at his church.

Nine unarmed policemen were shot dead on Thursday by troops who accused them of aiding the rebels.

On Friday five children and an adult were killed in a house that was deliberately set on fire.

Australia has experience of providing military aid to East Timor as it led a UN-sponsored force into the country in 1999 to end the unrest sparked when the population voted for independence from Indonesia.

UN peacekeepers only left East Timor a year ago.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/05/27 10:11:46 GMT


UNOTIL Press Release -


27 May, 2006/ Dili--The United Nations has today announced that all UN families and non-essential staff will begin to be relocated to a temporary safe haven in Darwin as the security level was raised to Phase three.

Under phase three, "all eligible dependents of internationally recruited staff members and non-essential internationally recruited staff members are to be relocated to a safe haven outside the country."

"As head of the mission, I am responsible for the safety of all personnel and therefore after careful deliberations, I think a temporary relocation for non-essential staff is the most judicious choice at this time," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sukehiro Hasegawa said.

SRSG Hasegawa added that the UN will still maintain more than 100 international staff in Timor-Leste while others will continue to work from Darwin. Stressing that this measure is a temporary one, the SRSG expressed his hope that arrival of Australian and other international security forces will allow a return to a secure environment for the people of Timor-Leste, many of whom are now living in a heightened sense of panic and fear."

He expressed his appreciation to the Australian Government for providing Australian security personnel to protect the UN compound where several hundred UN personnel are working and staying overnight.

The United Nations remains committed to supporting and assisting the people of Timor-Leste through this difficult time with the hope for a return to stability and security in the immediate future.

Kym Smithies Communications Officer UNDP Timor-Leste +670 724 4987 (Mobile) +670 3312 481 (ext 2044) 

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