Subject: AP - Military plans to arm East Timorese against rebel attacks
Date: Sat, 05 Dec 1998 18:30:29 -0700
From: Donald L Ferry <email@example.com>
Military plans to arm East Timorese against rebel attacks 11.00 a.m. ET (1601 GMT) December 5, 1998 DILI, Indonesia (AP) The Indonesian military chief in East Timor said Saturday he plans to arm civilians in more than 440 villages as protection against rebels fighting for independence.
Col. Suhartono Suratman said the weapons would be issued to volunteers who join a "people's defense force,'' known as Wanra.
Suratman, however, refused to specify the kind and number of weapons to be provided.
East Timorese rebels have been fighting for independence since Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it months later.
After years of bloody guerrilla warfare and human rights abuses, Indonesia softened its stance on East Timor after former President Suharto's authoritarian rule ended in May.
His successor, President B.J. Habibie, has offered a measure of autonomy in exchange for recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over the land of 800,000 people.