Subject: AFP: ABRI denies sending more troops to East Timor
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 1998 20:05:13 +0900
From: The AustralAsian <ausasia@ozemail.com.au>

Military denies sending more troops to East Timor

Sat 12 Sep 98 - 08:25 GMT

JAKARTA, Sept 12 (AFP) - The Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) has denied allegations it replaced the combat troops it had withdrawn from the troubled territory of East Timor last month, the state news agency Antara said Saturday.

In a statement obtained by Antara ABRI said it had only sent a very small number of military personnel involved in medical and morale-building tasks, to support non-combat troops in the province.

The statement said rumors that ABRI has been "rotating" not withdrawing its troops from East Timor, and even deploying "wild" (special) forces, had influenced public opinion toward the presence of ABRI in the territory which could lead to confusion and chaos.

ABRI said the special teams -- identified as Saka, Makikit and Alpha -- were in fact a part of the local People's Militia (Wanra), a component of state defense and security which could be found in every subdistrict in the country and whose job is to maintain public order.

Indonesia pulled out 398 combat troops from East Timor on July 28 as part of its withdrawal pledge and followed with some 700 other troops on August 8.

Indonesian military authorities in Dili also said that on August 5, three companies of troops including police mobile brigades, totalling about 300 men, had departed from East Timor, but as part of a regular troop rotation.

They said their replacements had arrived in East Timor on August 6 but were unarmed non-combat units that included one company from the military health division.

Pro-independence rebels in the territory however said that the 300 troops sent on August 6 came from Batallions 742 and 743.

They also called the gradual military withdrawal from East Timor pledged by the Indonesian government of President B.J. Habibie "a false promise" and alleged several thousand Indonesian troops had entered the territory before the highly-publicised withdrawal of 1,000 troops in July and August.

Habibie pledged a "gradual" troop withdrawal in a meeting with East Timorese Bishop Carlos Belo in June, shortly after he replaced ex-president Suharto.

Suharto ordered the 1975 Indonesian invasion of the former Portuguese colony and its annexation the following year.

Critics here and abroad have accused the Indonesian military, with its pervasive presence in East Timor, of serious violations of human rights and have called for their withdrawal as a prerequisite to peace there.

Western military attaches here said the withdrawal of the 1,000 troops was unlikely to change the military balance in East Timor, where an estimated 200 guerrillas are still operating.

Military officials here said the total pre-pullout troop strength in East Timor stood at 12,700 -- 6,700 of them "organic" or East Timorese.

The AustralAsian For News, Views and Comments on the Asia-Pacific Visit http://www.ozemail.com.au/~ausasia

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