Subject: AP: Timor militia chief pledges peace, but others hide weapons

Timor militia chief pledges peace, but others hide weapons By IRWAN FIRDAUS The Associated Press 9/30/00 4:55 AM

KUPANG, Indonesia (AP) -- A notorious militia leader surrendered his handgun to police in a largely symbolic gesture Saturday and vowed to abandon violence in his fight against independence for East Timor.

But the handover came as Indonesia's military admitted that many gang members in Indonesian West Timor were hiding weapons in defiance of a weeklong campaign to disarm them. Foreign leaders warned Indonesia it was in danger of losing foreign aid if it failed to take their weapons away.

"I will continue my struggle in politics. But I promise, I will no longer use firearms," said Eurico Guterres, who commands the Aitarak or "Thorn" gang, after handing in a pistol and 74 bullets at a police station in West Timor's capital, Kupang.

Guterres, who admitted he had more arms, came to prominence amid the violence that engulfed East Timor last year.

His gang, aided by sections of the Indonesian military, ruthlessly sacked and burned much of the capital, Dili, 13 months ago after the territory voted in a U.N.-organized ballot to break free of Indonesian rule.

When international peacekeepers arrived to restore order, he and hundreds of other anti-independence militiamen fled to Indonesian West Timor, where they seized control of a string of border camps and terrorized thousands of refugees there.

President Abdurrahman Wahid threatened to have him arrested.

Indonesia is under strong international pressure to disarm the militias after gang members murdered three U.N. aid workers in West Timor on Sept. 6.

Even so, Indonesian security forces said they had netted only 85 automatic rifles and about 1,000 crude homemade guns, along with ammunition and grenades.

Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, admitted many militiamen had stashed their weapons.

"They will face stern action. We will find them," local newspapers quoted him as saying.

The United Nations, which has suspended its relief operations in West Timor, has described the number of guns seized as "pathetic."

On Friday, British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock told the U.N. Security Council that Britain would find it difficult to continue extending support to Indonesia at an upcoming donor meeting in Tokyo, unless action was taken against the militias.

The U.N. administrator for East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, told U.N. ambassadors that he was skeptical about the successful disarming of the militias and arrest of those who killed the aid workers.

"Where resolution and a certain degree of ruthlessness would seem to be required, we are witnessing hesitation and prevarication," de Mello said.

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