Subject: SCMP: UN on alert after reports Timor militias plan suicide raids

South China Morning Post Tuesday, August 1, 2000

EAST TIMOR

UN on alert after reports militias plan suicide raids

JOANNA JOLLY in Dili

The United Nations is said to be stepping up security following reports that pro-Jakarta militias in West Timor are planning a series of cross-border attacks this month.

There are fears the groups, backed by elements in the Indonesian army, will launch "suicide attacks" in East Timor, using the dates of Indonesia Day, August 17, Falintil Day, August 20 and the National Council for Timorese Resistance congress, August 20 to 30, to highlight their presence.

Sources close to the peacekeeping forces say the border with Indonesian West Timor has been reinforced and that UN troops are on high alert.

Peacekeepers set up roadblocks outside the East Timorese capital, Dili, and the western town of Liquicia at the weekend after reports the militias planned to attack.

Civilians working for the UN have been told not to travel at night in the border regions, while foreign aid workers have been told to stay home at night.

Sources in Dili fear the militias are planning attacks on UN staff, the CNRT and guerilla force Falintil, which backed independence.

There also are fears the militias may conduct another ambush on the border, similar to the one that killed New Zealand peacekeeper Private Leonard Manning last week. Arrest warrants have been issued for a gang - thought to be hiding in West Timor - that killed the soldier.

UN spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Brynjar Nymo played down reports of further attacks, saying: "We have had reports over the past weeks in West Timor of militias' activity. Obviously, peacekeeping forces are still posted at the border and there has been some reshuffling, but our threat assessment has not changed from 'medium'."

More than 120,000 East Timorese refugees remain in camps in West Timor. The UN is involved in negotiations for their return, but it is unlikely the small group of hard-core militias responsible for rape and murder will go back.

Facing international pressure, Indonesia promised yesterday to close the camps which militiamen have been using as a base from which to stage incursions.

Militias have already stepped up their activity along the border. They are believed to have shot and wounded an East Timorese man near Suai on Saturday.

The same day, the militias successfully blocked a family reunion between refugees from West Timor and relatives in East Timor at Motaain town.

They set up roadblocks between the camps and the border, telling refugees they would be killed if they passed.

People working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration, which organised the reunion, were attacked, prompting the Indonesian military to shut the border.


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