Subject: SMH: 'TNI signature on border raids'

Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, March 7, 2000

'TNI signature on border raids'

Night vision ... UN peacekeeper Private Luke Elmoore uses special goggles on patrol near Maliana, and (below), they pick him up talking with fellow Australian, Sergeant Carl Hemberg. Photos by ANDREW MEARES SMH

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Heavily armed intruders from across the Indonesian border are believed responsible for a weekend attack in which one person was killed, another injured and a third person taken hostage.

A United Nations spokesman has said pro-Indonesian militias were involved, but other UN officials privately suggest this and other recent attacks could have been made by Indonesian special forces, Kopassus, known to be based across the border.

Local villagers are insistent the raiders come from the Indonesian military, or TNI.

"There are no militia along the border. They are in Atambua. The TNI have the weapons," said Mr Augusto Soares, 34, a resident of Memo, a small village seven kilometres north-west of Maliana and right on the Indonesian border.

The latest attack was made on Sunday afternoon near a hamlet 15 kilometres north-east of the district capital Maliana, in an area guarded by Australian UN troops.

It came only two days after the UN ordered its border troops to go on high alert following four shooting incidents last week linked to militia - the worst violence seen along the border since October.

"Over the past week there have been several reports of militia movements in the Sector West Area [Maliana] and the [UN] Peacekeeping Force says the possibility of further harassment and killing of innocent locals could very well take place," said the UN military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Brynjar Nymo.

The attackers in Maliana took a local person with them, according to reports. The captive later managed to escape and walk a long way to Maliana, where he alerted UN civilian police.

Colonel Nymo said the militia appeared to be well equipped with automatic weapons and grenades.

The spokesman put forward two possible motives for the attacks: either harassment and intimidation to test the UN response, or an attempt by the militias to increase their "political stature".

Another senior UN official, who asked not to be named, said he was concerned about recent reports of modern military weapons being given to pro-Jakarta militias, in breach of assurances from Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid that the militias would be disarmed.

The frontier near Maliana is secured by troops from 5/7 Royal Australian Regiment, a mechanised infantry battalion (supported with armoured vehicles) who have been serving in East Timor since October.

It is understood troopers from the elite Special Air Service Regiment are also based along the border in a surveillance role.

The ability of the five alleged militia to breach the border in daylight and travel deep inside East Timor raises questions about the real identity of the attackers.


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