Militia members assaulted three international observers today in Dili, the capital of East Timor.
The observers, members of the International Federation for East Timor Observer Project (IFET-OP), traveled to the Becora neighborhood of Dili to investigate reports of militia burning houses in the area yesterday. When they arrived, they found a house newly ablaze, and with both firefighters and journalists at the scene, the IFET-OP team went to investigate. Ten minutes after the observers arrived, the Indonesian military-backed militia showed up at the house.
The Aitarak (Thorn) militia struck one U.S. IFET-OP member in the face. Another team member, a woman from Finland, was hit in the back by a militia holding a gun. Yet another Finnish team member was threatened at gunpoint. The militia members also punched the IFET-OP driver and smashed a window on his car.
Immediately after the attack, IFET-OP members sought refuge in a nearby police station. The police literally pulled three observers over the wall into the safety of the police compound. Militia members then entered the station, with the permission of the police, and intimidated both journalists and observers. The police protected both the journalists and observers, then escorted the IFET-OP members back to their base.
Over the past two days, local militia members have burned at least five houses
in the Becora neighborhood. Local residents also reported to IFET-OP observers
that one person was killed last night as a result of militia attacks and arson.
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