Subject: MISNA: East Timor: Eyewitness account of rampant violence

Also RT: East Timor reopens airport after clashes

East Timor: Eyewitness account of rampant violence

The airport closing came amid violent clashes on Tuesday night among youth gangs armed with guns, bows and arrows and rocks along the main road to the airport, where a person was shot dead []

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


“Since April there has been no security for the population of Dili”, said Thomas Alvez, coadjutor and director of the Salesian Technical school in Dili, commenting on the closing of the airport of the capital after violent clashes between rival groups of youths over the past days that left at least two dead.

According to the international press, the closing came amid violent clashes on Tuesday night among youth gangs armed with guns, bows and arrows and rocks along the main road to the airport, where a person was shot dead, and this morning near the main air hub, where a resident was killed and twelve homes were torched.

“The fighting already began on Sunday morning and intensified until authorities yesterday decided to cancel all flights, at least until tomorrow because there are no security guarantees”, added Fr. Alvez from the Salesian Don Bosco center in Dili, situated near the airport.

“We cant leave our building. From here we can see rocks and broken glass on the street”, he added.

The clashes between the rival youth gangs, which in May had taken advantage of the unrest between soldiers to loot and torch stores, homes and government buildings, continue despite the presence of a 1,600-strong Australian-led multinational peace contingent.

“The government does not take care of the population and the around 100,000 displaced, and the international force has failed to contain the violence”, explained the missionary, specifying that “at times calm returns and we manage to resume our normal lives for two or three days, but then the fighting immediately restarts on the streets”.

Security has been fragile in the nation ­ only independent since 2002 ­ since the end of April when the former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri removed some 600 army soldiers, almost half of the total force, originally from the west of the nation that had not shown up for service in protest against alleged discrimination by army commanders from the east.

The clashes that broke out between regular soldiers and the deserters unleashed unrest between rival groups of youths, looting and arson.

“It is unclear who is behind the violence. Many schools were destroyed and numerous youths no longer attend. Someone is undoubtedly paying them to foment the violence between the west and east. The tension between the two geographical areas never eased”, concluded Alvez.

Missionary International Service News Agency ( MISNA)


East Timor reopens airport after clashes

October 26, 2006 - 9:55AM

East Timor's main airport in the capital Dili has reopened, two days after it was closed following deadly clashes between groups of youths armed with guns, rocks, and bows and arrows.

The closure of the main air hub highlights the fragile security situation in the fledging nation, despite the presence of an Australian-led peacekeeping force.

"We have reopened the airport today and many of our employees have come to work. A police post will be opened at the airport," said Romaldo da Silva, director of the East Timor civilian aviation authority.

He said the clashes had caused minor damage to the airport.

The gang fights began at the weekend.

Since Tuesday at least two people have died - one that day on a main road leading to the airport, another early on Wednesday in another clash.

Other reports say the death toll from five days of gang warfare is as high as six, with more than 50 injured.

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer put the death toll at four.

The clashes broke out despite the presence of Australian troops, who led a force of foreign peacekeepers to East Timor in late May to quell fighting that pitted rival factions in the young country's security force.

Mr Downer said Australian security forces in East Timor were investigating the violence.

"One of the possibilities is that this is linked to the United Nations report that has just been published drawing attention to prosecutions that could take place in East Timor," he said.

A UN report issued earlier this month called for prosecutions and further investigations against high-ranking Timor officials over the arming of civilians during a wave of violence in the tiny nation in May.

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