Subject: AP: Militiamen Surrender Weapons In West Timor

Saturday, September 23 5:10 PM SGT

Militiamen Surrender Hundreds Of Weapons In West Timor

ATAMBUA, Indonesia (AP)--Militiamen in West Timor surrendered hundreds of weapons to police Saturday in the first step of what the Indonesian government and the international community hope will be a total disarmament.

Just down the road from the U.N. office where three foreign aid workers were slaughtered by a militia mob on Sept. 6, 12 gang members arrived at a local police station with three cars packed with weapons.

In all, seven automatic rifles, nine grenade launchers, 485 homemade guns, four grenades and 687 rounds of ammunition were handed in by members of the Thunder militia group, one of many gangs that killed hundreds of people during last year's rampage in East Timor after the independence ballot.

With dozens of officers standing guard, the police confiscated the weapons and placed them in white sacks before locking them away in the police station.

"More weapons will come in over the next few days," said Supt. Simatubang. "We are going to receive all of them."

Indonesia is under intense international pressure to clamp down on the militiamen after they killed the three U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees humanitarian workers and three Indonesians.

On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen warned that Indonesia risked losing international financial assistance if it fails to immediately disband the armed gangs.

While Saturday's weapons surrender was a positive first step, hundreds of other militiamen are yet to come forward and surrender their guns.

Indonesia's government has promised to used force to disarm and disband any militiamen who don't surrender their weapons by Tuesday.

The militias are intent on destabilizing U.N.-administered East Timor's transition to self-rule and preventing 120,000 East Timorese refugees languishing in squalid camps in West Timor from returning home.

U.N. peacekeepers in East Timor said on Friday that they feared some militiamen may sneak back into the territory to avoid being disarmed.

Two peacekeepers have been killed in gunbattles with the militia gangs in East Timor recently.

Throughout the hot and dusty Atambua town, no militiamen could be seen. The main road crisscrossing West Timor was clear of militia roadblocks, where travelers only a week ago had to hand over money and cigarettes.

Indonesia's Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri was scheduled to arrive in Atambua on Sunday to witness the disarmament of other militias and visit a refugee camp in the area.

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