Subject: SMH: Militia Strikes Provoke Canberra Ire

Sydney Morning Herald Thursday, March 9, 2000

Militia strikes provoke Canberra ire

By MARK DODD in Dili, and DAVID LAGUE in Canberra

Australia and the United Nations are to lodge protests in Jakarta today over a spate of attacks in East Timor blamed on anti-independence militia operating from Indonesian West Timor.

Australian, Kenyan, New Zealand and Portuguese troops in the UN peacekeeping force have begun a huge security operation in East Timor's central highlands following an attack on Monday by a well-trained and armed group of intruders identified by local people as belonging to the Indonesian armed forces, or TNI.

The UN transitional administration's military commander, Lieutenant-General Jaime de los Santos, and its political section chief, Mr Peter Galbraith, left Dili yesterday for Jakarta to protest at Indonesia's failure to prevent cross-border attacks.

Yesterday, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, ordered the Australian Embassy in Jakarta to question the Indonesian Government over the attacks, reflecting fears the UN peacekeepers, who include 2,000 Australians, could be targeted.

General Santos and Mr Galbraith will meet the Foreign Minister, Mr Alwi Shihab, and the Defence Minister, Admiral Juwono Sudarsono, before travelling to Kupang, where they will repeat their complaints with the military commander responsible for the border region, Major-General Kiki Syahnakri.

Three separate attacks since Sunday in the central and western sectors have seen two East Timorese killed, and pose the biggest security challenge to the UN peacekeepers since they took over from the Australian-led international force, Interfet, on February 23.

Officials of the pro-independence grouping the National Committee of Timorese Resistance, or CNRT, yesterday claimed to have positively identified an Indonesian soldier who took part in Monday's gun battle with Kenyan peacekeepers in the highland town of Atsabe.

Mr Angelino Monterio, secretary of the CNRT's Atsabe branch, said a TNI corporal, Miguel Gomes, was recognised as one of four men who escaped after the exchange of fire, in which the Kenyans captured one militiaman, an automatic rifle and ammunition.

Mr Monterio said the captured militiaman was a former local member of an Indonesian military-backed gang known as the Partisan-SGI who operated out of Atsabe last year.

SGI is an Indonesian acronym for the army-backed Integrated Intelligence Unit, whose paramilitary members were responsible for a wave of murder and intimidation in the lead-up to the independence ballot on August30 last year.

Father Marcel Dias, parish priest in Atsabe, said villagers were feeling threatened by the lack of security since Interfet's departure.

"The militia always said they would come back," he said. "Now it is a reality."

In Dili, senior UN military officials are far more alarmed in private than they will say publicly. One senior officer, who asked not to be named, said there had been at least 30 incidents since Sunday involving up to 300 pro-Jakarta militia crossing the border.

However the UN military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Brynjar Nymo, said yesterday that about 18 well-armed militiamen had crossed the border in late February and had split into smaller groups with the purpose of carrying out a series of deadly attacks.

"Obviously to make a full watertight border we would have needed more troops," he said. "The blame for this incursion has to be put where it should be with the TNI. The TNI are obviously totally incapable or have no will to follow up the agreements they have made with Interfet and subsequently the PKF [peacekeeping force] to stop these militia operating from West Timor."

As well as the three shooting incidents, militia were thought responsible for arson attacks in which homes were burnt about six kilometres west of Atsabe, he said.

"They are cowards, they're criminals. That's why they are focusing on soft targets like civilians," Colonel Brynjar said.

Colonel Brynjar said the captured militiaman had been brought to Dili and was being interrogated by UN civilian police.

He said the man denied he was a member of the Indonesian armed forces, and said he had been issued with his rifle only three days before crossing the border.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, has asked international experts to look at UN peacekeeping failures and determine what went wrong so the world body can improve prospects for peace in the future, Associated Press reports .

The eight-member panel will examine past and present UN peace efforts and make recommendations by July, Mr Annan said.

He wants the report in the hands of world leaders in time for it to be considered before attending the UN's millennium summit in September, which is expected to help shape the world body's role in the new century.

"We need a clear set of recommendations on how to do better in future in the whole range of UN activities in the area of peace and security," Mr Annan said.

He hoped the panel would look at "the quality of the mandates we get - which have to be clear and achievable - the sort of resources the member states put up to back these operations, and the will of the member states" to carry them out.

The panel will be headed by a former Algerian foreign minister, Mr Lakhdar Brahimi.


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