Subject: E.Timor: Leaders to meet after likely militia raid

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Sydney Morning Herald January 7, 2003

East Timor: Leaders fly to border town after likely militia raid

By Jill Jolliffe in Darwin

United Nations officials and East Timorese government leaders are re-assessing security after a weekend border attack with all the hallmarks of a militia incursion from West Timor.

Three people died and five were hurt when masked raiders with automatic weapons attacked the hamlets of Tirlelo and Laubanu, near Atsabe, 25 kilometres from the Indonesian border. Several others were reported missing in the attack, which happened late Saturday and early Sunday.

The attackers could be people still living in the bush who have come down to steal, but most evidence points to an infiltration from the other side of the border, said a senior source from the East Timor Defence Force, the country's new national army.

He said a villager had identified five Atsabe men who formerly served with the Indonesian secret services SGI unit.

It is the first such attack in the border region for more than a year, and was notable for the use of automatic weapons. Bullet casings at the site indicated that SKS and G3 automatic assault rifles were used, as well as old Mauser rifles. The latter two weapons could come from caches buried since Portuguese times, but the Soviet-manufactured SKS guns are Indonesian-issue.

An emergency meeting of UN officials and East Timorese leaders was held early on Sunday after news of the attack reached Dili.

President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and East Timorese defence commander Brigadier Taur Matan Ruak then flew by helicopter to the area with UN officials, to interview villagers and assess the situation at first-hand.

Atsabe is a key border town in the mountains south-west of Dili but was without effective security when the attacks occurred. Five East Timorese policemen were on duty, each armed with a pistol.

UN peacekeepers withdrew from the area last year. The nearest now are based at Liquica on the north coast, at least two hours away by road.


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