Subject: New Violence Hits Dili; Thousands Storm Warehouse in Search for Food

also: AP: Fighting, Looting Hit East Timor Capital; and AFP: New looting and violence erupts in East Timor

Australian Broadcasting Corporation May 30, 2006

Food shortage causes chaos in Dili

By Anne Barker in Dili

East Timor's capital Dili has descended into a near riot as thousands of people tried to storm a Government warehouse in search of food.

The tiny nation is facing a growing shortage of food.

Several thousand people flocked to a storehouse in central Dili this morning which stores emergency sacks of rice.

Government authorities have begun distributing rice on a daily basis but as food supplies elsewhere dry up, the people are becoming more desperate.

This morning they tried to storm the warehouse, while others who received rice were mobbed by looters as they tried to wheel it away on wooden carts.

Australian troops were called in to control the crowds and stop any looting.

The World Food Program says the situation is urgent because normal food supplies from shops and markets are not available.

The aid agency is diverting supplies from other projects.

Australia's aid agency AusAID is sending $1 million worth of food and medical supplies to Dili.

East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta has warned of a humanitarian crisis if those in refugee camps do not begin returning home.

The commander of Australian troops in East Timor Mick Slater says it is now safe to do so.

Across town the talks are continuing to resolve the political deadlock over who should govern East Timor.

Despite pressure for him to resign, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri seems likely to survive as leader.


The commander of one battalion in East Timor, Lieutenant Colonel Mick Mumford, says the incidence of shootings and house fires has dropped.

Lieutenant Colonel Mumford says his troops have confiscated hundreds of weapons, and he is confident it is now safe for thousands of displaced people to return home.

"It is very reasonable to tell them to go home because it is safe, and while there might be some gangs out there our guys are out there too and they're finding them, they're disarming them and those individuals are going back to their homes as well," he said.

Meanwhile, one of the East Timorese police officers injured in fighting in Dili last week remains in a critical condition in Royal Darwin Hospital.

The man has gunshot wounds to his chest, spine and stomach and he is expected to have further surgery today.

His condition is reported to be improving.

Nine other evacuees injured in the fighting, including an Indonesian man airlifted to Darwin last night, are listed as being in a serious condition.

NZ troops

New Zealand troops have arrived in Darwin to help strengthen Australia's peacekeeping efforts in East Timor.

One-hundred-and-twenty New Zealand troops left Townsville this morning.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force 757 carrying the soldiers landed at Darwin's RAAF base this afternoon.

The contingent will most likely spend the night in Darwin before heading to Dili tomorrow to help bolster the Australian-led peacekeeping force.

They will join 42 other New Zealand soldiers already on the ground.


Associated Press May 30, 2006

Fighting, Looting Hit East Timor Capital

By ANTHONY DEUTSCH Associated Press Writer

DILI, East Timor -- Fighting and looting erupted in East Timor's capital on Tuesday as its leaders held urgent meetings to find a way out of the worst crisis in the young nation's seven-year history.

A mob armed with machetes looted the attorney general's office, and Australian peacekeepers struggled to keep order as thousands of desperate people crowded around a warehouse in Dili to receive free rice.

Tens of thousands of residents have fled their homes to escape the violence in the smoldering capital.

"We need more food. The situation is terrible," said Daniel Afonso, who fled his destroyed home with his parents and four children and is staying at a church refugee center.

"It is dangerous to go out looking for food and the shops are closed," he said.

Fighting broke as mobs roamed through several areas of the capital on Tuesday, and there was scattered arson and looting. Ambulances took injured people to a hospital, but it was not immediately clear how many had been hurt.

The situation appeared more tense than on Monday, when foreign peacekeepers made a show of force, throwing machete-wielding youths to the ground and handcuffing them as residents looked on.

The country's political leaders met for a second day Tuesday in an attempt to defuse the crisis. Heavily armed Australian and East Timorese troops guarded the palace, where anti-government protesters called for the prime minister's resignation and helicopters and armored personnel carriers patrolled nearby.

On Monday, revered President Xanana Gusmao, who wields enormous status as the hero of East Timor's independence, told a crowd outside the palace to be patient and promised a solution would soon be found.

"Stop fighting ... calm down," Gusmao told the crowd. "Don't take up swords. Don't burn houses. Stop dividing the nation."

The crowd chanted "Viva Gusmao! Viva Gusmao!"

Many demonstrators want Gusmao to dissolve parliament and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to step down. Alkatiri has been blamed for failing to stop the unrest, which was triggered by the March firing of 600 disgruntled soldiers from the 1,400-member army.

After staging deadly riots last month, the sacked troops fled the seaside capital, setting up positions in the surrounding hills and threatening guerrilla war if they were not reinstated.

One leader of the renegade forces, Maj. Agosto De Araujo, said the ousted troops had sent a message to Gusmao offering to join peace talks.

"We are ready to be called back to the negotiating table at any time," De Araujo told The Associated Press by telephone.

Arson continued Monday, though there was less chaos than over the weekend, when gangs armed with machetes, clubs and spears rampaged through the city. Provoking much of the violence are accusations, often unfounded, that one person or another harbors sympathy for Indonesia, which pulled out of East Timor in 1999 after 24 years of often brutal rule.

In an interview with Australian radio on Tuesday, an Australian military commander insisted that country's peacekeepers are gaining the upper hand against street thugs in Dili.

"The evidence of the effectiveness of the task force is seen on the streets; yesterday was a real turning point," Brig. Michael Slater told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Slater said his soldiers, who began arriving Dili last Thursday, had confiscated more than 450 high-powered rifles, handguns, shotguns and grenades in 48 hours from gangs of "gutless thugs" who have looted and burned homes in the capital.

As spectators looked on, Australian forces briefly detained youths caught lighting fires. The foreigners lack arrest powers and the suspects were soon freed.

Businesses and schools remained closed in Dili amid mounting shortages of fuel, food and water. Long lines formed at a few open gas stations.

Portugal, East Timor's former ruler for four centuries, said it will deploy 120 paramilitary police by the end of the week, three weeks ahead of schedule.

Non-governmental organizations said many areas were simply too dangerous to receive deliveries of aid.

"If the security situation does not improve, it is possible that the humanitarian crisis could worsen significantly," Luis Vieira, a spokesman for a group of aid agencies, said in a statement.

There is a serious threat of disease outbreaks, he said.

International troops began arriving last week to help put down the most serious threat to the nation of around 1 million.

The United Nations administered the territory for 2 1/2 years, before formal independence was declared in 2002. The U.N. peacekeeping force wrapped up operations this year.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the 1,300 Australian soldiers in Timor face serious dangers.

"You're dealing with a whole lot of disparate, uncontrolled gangs," Howard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "The fundamental problem in East Timor is that the country has not been well governed." l


Agence France-Presse May 30, 2006

New looting and violence erupts in East Timor

New looting and gang fights has erupted in the East Timor capital Dili, leaving homes and buildings in flames just 100 metres (yards) from the presidential palace, an AFP reporter witnessed.

Sporadic gunfire echoed around the city as ethnic gangs from the east and west of the tiny country squared off around the main road linking the airport with the city centre.

Groups of youths wearing balaclavas and carrying traditional East Timorese swords and metal pipes set fire to buildings and looted their contents.

The new violence left many businesses, houses and vehicles in flames and thick plumes of smoke rose into the air above the city.

The violence dissipated as reinforcements of Australian troops arrived on the scene and disarmed some gang members.

The fighting was close to the building where President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri were holding crisis talks aimed at defusing several weeks of violence which has left the country close to civil war.

The violence quickly spread from a military rebellion which began when almost half the 1,400-strong army were sacked for going on strike after claiming discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country.

Australia is heading a multinational force of about 2,250 troops sent in to restore order to East Timor.

------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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