Subject: AFP: East Timor's government 'saddened' over latest violence

Also AP: Australian official says 8 international police injured in Dili; AFP: Even in camps, East Timorese fear for their lives

Agence France Presse

East Timor's government 'saddened' over latest violence

DILI, Aug 23 2006

East Timor expressed regret Wednesday over two Australian policemen injured in a mob attack by youths overnight, the latest unrest to hit the tiny nation.

"The government is very saddened that violence is still ongoing," second deputy prime minister Rui Maria de Araujo told a press conference in Dili.

He confirmed that three youths had been arrested by international police for the attack near Dili's Comoro neighbourhood on Tuesday.

Portuguese police told the LUSA news agency that the clash took place after Australian police tried to break up a battle between two groups of around 30 rock-throwing youths in an area located near a refugee camp.

Australian police fired live rounds into the air after coming under attack and called in Portuguese police reinforcements who fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, LUSA reported.

The mob also destroyed three patrol cars used by the Australian police.

Some 82,000 people are living at camps set up in Dili for those who were displaced by a wave of violence by machete-wielding gangs which swept the former Portuguese colony in May, killing at least 21 people.

East Timor invited a 3,200-strong international peacekeeping force to the country of around one million people in the wake of the unrest, which was sparked by infighting among factions in the military and police.


Associated Press Worldstream

August 23, 2006 Wednesday 7:59 AM GMT

Australian official says 8 international police injured in Dili

By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press Writer

CANBERRA Australia

Seven Australian police officers and one Malaysian officer suffered minor injuries in East Timor when a gang of young men pelted rocks at them near the airport in Dili, Australian police said Wednesday.

International police had been responding to a rock fight involving 200 gang members on Tuesday night on the main road to the capital city's airport, an Australian Federal Police spokeswoman said.

The crowd turned on the police when one of the gang members was arrested.

"Following that arrest, one of the group began throwing rocks at police, forcing them to take cover behind their vehicles," the spokeswoman said on the usual condition of anonymity.

"A number of warning shots were fired in an attempt to disperse the crowd," she said, adding that three police cars were "significantly damaged."

She described the injuries as "very minor" cuts and abrasions.

"It's important to note that the security situation hasn't dramatically deteriorated," she added.

East Timor was plunged into crisis in May when rival security forces battled in Dili's streets, later spilling into gang warfare, looting and arson that left 30 people dead and sent nearly 150,000 fleeing from their homes.

A new government was installed last month, which, along with the presence of foreign troops, has largely eased tensions in Asia's newest nation.


Agence France Presse

August 23, 2006

Even in camps, East Timorese fear for their lives

Nelson da Cruz

DILI, Aug 23 2006

At this makeshift camp, thousands of East Timor's displaced people fear for their safety as youths intermittently hurl rocks at their temporary homes and rumours swirl of more serious attacks.

"United we are, in peace and building our country!" reads a banner in the local Tetum language stretching above the gate to the high-walled Obrigado Barracks in the East Timorese capital.

Those remaining at the camp -- a motley array of yellow, white and blue tents -- feel however that permanent peace is still a distant hope.

"We are often pelted with stones. Even this morning, stones were thrown here," said Dominggos Gomes, a 34-year-old father of six.

"I am constantly worried and on guard," he added.

Despite the presence of some 3,000 international peacekeepers deployed to East Timor in May, when violence rocked Dili and led to 21 deaths, sporadic bouts of low-level unrest have continued to plague the capital.

The original fighting between factions of East Timor's security forces -- triggered by the sacking of 600 deserting soldiers -- degenerated into communal violence on the streets.

Gangs played up previously unimportant differences between ordinary people from the east and west of the tiny nation.

This gang activity appears to have persisted, with few of the 150,000 people estimated to have fled to makeshift camps returning home.

Last weekend around 200 youths -- some wielding spears, knives, darts or slingshots -- torched six homes and assaulted an Australian police officer over the weekend. Twenty-five people were detained.

On Tuesday two Australian police officers were slightly injured and three of their vehicles destroyed as they attempted to break up a battle between two groups of rock-throwing youths in an area near another camp.

Australian police fired live rounds into the air after coming under attack and called in Portuguese police reinforcements who fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, the LUSA news agency reported.

Last week petrol bombs were thrown into this tent camp, which provides shelter to some 3,700 people -- even though the United Nations headquarters in East Timor is just across the road.

The UN expressed alarm over security at the temporary shelters last week, with a security advisor saying they appeared to have been singled out for attacks. At Obrigado Barracks, most people hail from the east.

Liberio dos Santos, a camp coordinator, said that just over 3,300 people have left the camp as rumours of attacks flared in recent weeks.

"The main reason for their departure is that they heard that the Obrigado Barracks camp will be burned down and people from eastern East Timor eradicated," he said.

Many of those who have left shifted to other camps not seen as being under threat, he said, rather than returning home.

Camp-dweller Gomes said he believed dozens of local youths were behind the stone-throwing, adding that he and others here were now too afraid to leave the camp after dark.

"If I venture out of the gate, I could be the target of the stones or even killed by those outside," he said.

A small security post at the entrance gate is manned by four uniformed security guards provided by UN headquarters, armed only with walkie-talkies.

Before it was turned into a camp UN staff parked their cars at the barracks. It was used by peacekeepers sent to restore calm in 1999, when the East Timorese voted for independence from neighbouring Indonesia.

Militias backed by the retreating Indonesian military launched bloody retaliatory attacks, leaving some 1,400 people dead.

Zita Maria Soares, 24, is another at the camp living fretfully.

"I am constantly worried. Stones and fuel bombs are still being thrown at us. It is only a matter of time before someone throws a hand-grenade," she said, clutching her four-month-old son.

Coordinator dos Santos said demands for better security have fallen on deaf ears.

International police have defended their decision not to place troops at each of the refugee camps.

"It's not part of the plan. It's never been the case that police and military are positioned at the camps," Tim Dodd, a spokesman for the Australian police contingent, said on Saturday.


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