Subject: UN troops take back the night from E Timor militia

The Australian 15 November 99

Troops take back the night from militia

By Defence writer ROBERT GARRAN

THE "game is over" for pro-Jakarta militia in East Timor, with Australian-led Interfet troops now having established authority throughout the territory, according to Australia's defence chief.

Chief of the Defence Force Admiral Chris Barrie said the technology used by Australian troops, especially night-vision equipment, had been a crucial factor in Interfet establishing its authority over East Timor.

However, although the territory itself was now relatively secure, there was still a security threat from possible militia incursions across the border with West Timor, Admiral Barrie told The Australian.

"There were two key factors in our strategy. One was that we established our authority. We made it perfectly clear that we knew what we were doing, that we were going about it in a very professional way, and we were not favouring any of the parties," he said.

"The second element is that we used technology and our force capabilities to dominate the night." Before Interfet arrived, much militia harassment occurred at night.

"Night-vision devices allow you to see what's going on on the ground, where the people are, what they're doing," Admiral Barrie said.

"We were able to cue response forces to go to buildings where petrol was being put around and saying, 'what are you doing?', and suddenly they weren't able to use the night to do those sorts of things. Because of that the resistance collapsed quite quickly. So the game is over."

It would take some time to assess the extent of human rights abuses in East Timor, Admiral Barrie said.

"The only way we'll know how many people have gone missing is to compare the registration rolls for the ballot with who actually comes back to East Timor, or is living in another place. There is a lot of talk about people living in the hills; well, I flew over the hills," he said. "The vegetation is not dense, and I didn't see a large concentration of people in the hills that I flew over."

The numbers in West Timor and other islands were known, but adding totals together left 150,000 unaccounted for, he said.

"Have they all been killed and buried at sea, or dropped overboard? I don't know. We've certainly had bodies washing up on the beach, more than you would say was the odd surfing (or) boat accident."

Reuters reports that refugee agencies are preparing for the imminent return of 25,000 displaced East Timorese to the isolated enclave of Oecussi.


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