Subject: AFP: Indonesian militia launch attacks in East Timor city
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 04:27:47 EDT

Indonesian militia launch attacks in East Timor city

MALIANA, East Timor, Aug 18 (AFP) - Armed pro-Indonesian militiamen launched a series of attacks on independence supporters in this East Timorese town Wednesday and residents reported several casualties.

The early morning attacks were launched on the local office of the Council for East Timorese Resistance (CNRT) and a student voter education outpost, an AFP reporter said.

A local source said: "I'm led to believe there were a number of casualties among the populace and some motorcycles were set on fire."

The source, however, said there did not appear to be any deaths in the attacks, which came less than two weeks before East Timor votes to decide its future in a ballot being held under United Nations auspices.

The August 30 poll has already been delayed twice because of continuing militia violence.

The attacks came hours before the chief of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), Ian Martin, arrived for a visit to Maliana, some 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of the former Portuguese territory's capital Dili.

Martin arrived by helicopter to find the UNAMET contingent of some 120 staff and volunteers holed up inside their compound for safety.

Journalists who had made the three-hour drive from Dili to Maliana by road said that they had to pass through at least three roadblocks manned by militiamen who were armed with machetes, spears and harpoons.

Inside Maliana, they were further blocked by another road barricade where militia members were wearing pro-autonomy T-shirts and were armed with an M-16 rifle and a home-made gun.

Before a group of journalists retreated inside the UNAMET compound, a truck load of some 40 to 50 militiamen carrying an assortment of weapons roared up to them apparently ready to attack.

They then explained that they had thought the journalists' cars were carrying students from Dili, and stopped threatening them. No shots were fired.

Joao Olivier, a militia leader on the truck, claimed that only members of the CNRT's armed wing Falintil bore guns.

The menacing roadblocks were "a precautionary measure," he told an AFP reporter.

Indonesia, which invaded East Timor in 1975, has said it may grant independence to the territory if East Timorese reject an offer of broad autonomy on August 30.

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