Subject: SCMP: Militia pay-day linked to attack and rise in forays

South China Morning Post Wednesday, December 13, 2000

EAST TIMOR

Militia pay-day linked to attack and rise in forays

Speaking out: East Timorese teachers picket UN headquarters in Dili during a rally to demand teachers' rights and wages that have not been paid for three months. Associated Press photo

JOANNA JOLLY in Dili

The latest attack on an Australian peacekeeper is being linked to a marked rise in militia activity across the border in Indonesian West Timor.

An Australian soldier with the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor was hurt on Monday night when an explosive device was thrown at him in the village of Aidabaleten, 35km from the border with West Timor.

Private Christopher Carter suffered minor shrapnel wounds to his left leg and is recovering in the UN-run military hospital in the East Timor capital, Dili.

Peacekeeping forces in the area are searching for the perpetrators - suspected militia operating out of West Timor bases. Australian peacekeeping spokesman Major David Munro said it was not yet known whether the explosion was caused by a hand-made device or a standard grenade.

"All we know is that the explosive device was thrown from a southerly direction. That is where we are looking for a trail to follow up on," he said.

The incident was the second suspected militia attack against Australian forces stationed in the north section of western East Timor in two weeks.

The relationship to unrest in West Timor is hard to escape given the re-establishment of a militia training camp near the village of Hakesak close to the West Timorese border town of Atambua. "We know that training of militia has started again and that it is centred around the Hakesak area," UN sources said.

East Timorese militia who crossed into Indonesian West Timor after the arrival of an international force in East Timor last year are known to have been trained by the Indonesian military.

This new rise in activity and the resurgence of a training regime may be linked to extra funds given to Atambua-based militia leader Joao Tavares.

"Joao Tavares has been seen meeting with militia commanders and giving out money," the sources said.

Since October, East Timorese militia still operating in West Timor appear to have split into two factions - those who want to return to East Timor and those who have not given up the fight for Indonesian rule in the territory.

In October, four prominent militia leaders wrote to the UN Security Council seeking safe passage if they decided to return to East Timor.

Three of the four, Joanico Cesario, Cancio and Nemecio Lopez de Carvalho, claimed their lives had been threatened by Indonesian special forces (Kopassus). They said they were under pressure not to reveal the extent of the Indonesian Government and military involvement in the violence that followed East Timor's vote on independence.

"We demand a security guarantee because there are groups that are unhappy with us repatriating, in particular the TNI and militia led by Joao Tavares," Joanico Cesario said from the West Timorese capital Kupang.


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