Subject: AFP: More than 1,700 firearms collected in ETimor

More than 1,700 firearms collected in ETimor

Tue Sep 19, 3:39 AM ET

DILI (AFP) - Close to 2,000 guns have been rounded up in restive East Timor in an ongoing effort to get firearms off the country's violent streets, the head of the multinational forces said.

"More than 1,700 firearms have already been collected and the weapons collection is proceeding," Brigadier-General Mick Slater said in a UN statement released late Monday.

"Thousands of traditional weapons have also been collected and destroyed."

Some 3,200 peacekeepers were deployed to East Timor in May amid a breakdown in security in the capital, which left at least 21 people dead.

Military and police factions waged bloody street battles after some 600 deserting soldiers were sacked, while gangs aligned along eastern and western divisions also waged attacks on each other.

Since then, the United Nations has taken over policing in the half-island nation and peacekeepers have been struggling to contain sporadic gang violence, which left one person dead last week.

Slater said military weapons had been safely secured while "the majority" of police weapons have now been accounted for.

The Security Task Force -- involving the UN as well as the international forces -- has "agreed to step up the weapons collection campaign by working closely with existing local community structures," the UN statement added.

Australia warned in a travel advisory on Sunday that East Timor, Asia's poorest nation, was likely to face an upsurge in anti-government protests and civil unrest this week and next.

Tens of thousands of refugees remain in camps in Dili and its surrounding districts, too afraid to return to their homes amid the uncertain security conditions.


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