Militias Threaten To Disrupt Holbrooke Visit
Associated Press November 19, 1999
Indonesian Militias Threaten To Disrupt Holbrooke Visit
JAKARTA (AP)--Hundreds of militia thugs are gathering in a West Timor town to confront U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke when he visits the area next week, aid workers said Friday.
Militia members from across West Timor are traveling to Atambua to present a "show of force" to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who will visit the town Monday, said Chris Lom, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.
"The militias no longer have much power, so they want to make their presence known," he said.
Meanwhile the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees has threatened to stop repatriating the East Timorese unless the Indonesian military takes steps to guarantee their safety, a UNHCR spokesman said.
This followed an attack on a group of refugees by militia-gang members Wednesday in which a pregnant woman and her husband were seriously injured, said spokesman Yusuf Hasan.
"That attack has scared everybody," he said. "If this continues we won't be able to continue here."
The refugees were waiting at a police station in the border town of Atambua to join a UNHCR convoy on its way to East Timor.
Holbrooke and Stanley Roth, the senior State Department official for East Asia, are expected to visit Atambua Monday as part of a visit to West and East Timor.
A U.S. official said they would assess the refugee situation and possibly press the Indonesian government to take stronger measures to ensure the East Timorese refugees can return home peacefully.
Holbrooke will then travel to East Timor where he is expected to meet with Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove, the leader of the peacekeeping force, and independence leader Jose Alexandre Gusmao, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity
A military spokesman in Jakarta, Col. Panggih, said he knew nothing about militia members gathering in Atambua but would investigate the matter and take action if necessary.
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