Sneak Over Border To E Timor; Vow Resistance
Associated Press October 13, 1999
Militiamen Sneak Over Border To E Timor; Vow Resistance
LIQUICA, Indonesia (AP)--Some anti-independence militia groups that fled East Timor are secretly returning with plans to launch a guerrilla campaign against the international peacekeeping force charged with keeping them out.
Associated Press Television News this week accompanied one militia leader and his armed followers through the mountainous interior of the territory.
The Australian-led multinational force, known as Interfet, has clashed with, and killed, some militiamen in recent days. But there was no sign of the foreign troops on this journey.
"We are East Timorese. Why is Interfet trying to keep me out of East Timor? This is the place in which I was born. I will fight to be in my own land, my own place," Eurico Guterres, a prominent militia leader, said on Tuesday.
Several thousand peacekeepers were sent to the territory after the Indonesian army and its pro-Indonesian militia allies launched a wave of killing, looting and torching soon after most of East Timor's 850,000 people voted for independence in an Aug. 30 U.N.-sponsored referendum.
Guterres traveled by foot and vehicle from a militia stronghold on the border of Indonesian-controlled West Timor to a village in Liquica district, about 50 kilometers west of Dili, East Timor's capital and the main base of Interfet.
There, he inspected a group of about 150 militia members, who he said had sneaked into East Timor about a week ago. Most had M16s, AK-47s and other automatic military weapons. Others carried homemade arms. All wore uniforms of Indonesia's military, which is accused of supporting them covertly.
"We are going to send more militias in soon. Maybe then we will fight," Guterres said, as his men gathered in a secluded bamboo grove.
He and his Aitarak militia are accused by independence activists of being responsible for several bloody attacks and atrocities, which the United Nations plans to investigate.
Hundreds of militiamen retreated into West Timor ahead of the arrival of the peacekeepers. Guterres said they are now returning.
"I want to tell the world that the militias are not still just on the border, like the media says," he said. "We are back in East Timor and behind Interfet lines."
Australian Associated Press Friday October 15 8:48:55 AM
Militiia may have been present in Liquisa
DILI, East Timor, Oct 15 - Interfet commander Australian Major General Peter Cosgrove today conceded militia under the command of Eurico Guterres may have been present in the Liquisa area on Wednesday.
A statement, made in an interview with Voice of America late yesterday, acknowledged that despite his earlier denial, the presence of 150 armed militia in Liquisa - 30 kilometres west of Dili - was being taken seriously by Interfet forces stationed in the town.
"We're actually developing that information now to see what it means in terms of numbers and actual locations, where they might be now," General Cosgrove said.
"Plainly, once we get something concrete, we'll react pretty strongly to that.
"We don't want them being adventurous in this way, and if they're around, they are around and we get hold of them, we'll disarm them. If they've gone back to West Timor, well that's good, they've been lucky this time.
"They shouldn't chance their luck again."
General Cosgrove reversed his previous statement to the press early Thursday, when he did his utmost to discredit a report that militia were in Laquica, calling the report 'rubbish'.
He took the opportunity to warn the militia not to return to East Timor after AP television reporters returned to Liquisa and gathered anecdotal evidence from residents that militia had been in the area destroying property.
A foreign journalist who passed through the area last night reported houses burning near the town.
Local residents said the fires were lit by militia.
"I want to point out to the sort of people that might wish to come across the border that they should be aware that we will be applying and do apply some very sophisticated surveillance techniques in the area," he said.
"And I would not want themselves to underrate the risk. I say this because it is not our intention to catch them and imprison them or worse to engage in battle with them.
"We actually want them to lay down their arms and if they feel they can't do that, well, don't come into East Timor.
"I guess that every time I get a chance, I issue this warning - don't take the chance, it could be pretty final."
The area of Liquisa has been a militia stronghold since the groups were formed in January.
It has been the home of the Besih Merah Putih (red and white iron) who were involved in a massacre in the town's church in April, the attack in Dili in May and the final destruction of the capital following the announcement of the independence result to the UN sponsored ballot on September 4.
An Interfet force is stationed permanently in the town - part of 3,000 international troops, mainly Australian, deployed to the west of Dili - to secure the border region from militia and Indonesian military incursions.
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