Subject: AU: Hunt for leaders of Timor violence

Hunt for leaders of Timor violence

Ashleigh Wilson, Dili October 31, 2006

EAST Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta has vowed to hunt down those behind the latest instability in Dili, and strongly defended the presence of Australian troops in the impoverished nation.

Returning to Dili yesterday following an audience with the Pope in the Vatican, Mr Ramos Horta said there was growing evidence of a "political motivation" to the fighting that had left up to 10 people dead in the past week.

"There have been some organised attempts - efforts with money, drugs given to youths - designed to instigate violence," he said.

"This suggests only that there might be some elements involved with an obvious political agenda."

Mr Ramos Horta said his Government, the UN and Australian troops were investigating the organisers of the violence, and expected results within days.

The streets of Dili have been quiet since Friday, but concerns remain about continuing tensions across the capital and the potential for violence to break out at any time.

"These people who are doing this, they know we are watching, they know we are obtaining evidence about them, so that might discourage them and make them stop this violence," Mr Ramos Horta said.

"I'm confident we will know their identity in the coming days ... In due course, we will let the public know, expose those who are determined to continue to destabilise this country.

"On our side, we have very long experience, through 24 years' of resistance, in finding out who's who."

The Prime Minister's comments come amid growing anti-Australian sentiment in Dili, where the violence has been exacerbated by widespread use of methamphetamines among disaffected youth.

On the weekend, a local newspaper blamed Australian troops for the deaths of two Timorese men, a claim rejected by Prime Minister John Howard and the head of the Australian Defence Force.

Mr Ramos Horta said yesterday that the only people who wanted to discredit Australian or Portuguese troops in East Timor were "the enemies of this country, the enemies of peace".

"In May, we were desperate because our police imploded and people were being killed, and there was a danger of a civil war," he said.

"We called upon our friends - Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal. All of them responded promptly. If not for them, I don't know where East Timor would be today.

"So only people who have no interest in seeing this country stabilise would engage in a campaign of trying to discredit our friends."

The Australian reported yesterday how a dirty form of the drug "ice", manufactured locally and distributed to young Timorese, was fuelling the gang violence in Dili.

Mr Ramos Horta said drug users were in the minority, but agreed that the use of methamphetamines was contributing to the violence.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20673665-2703,00.html