Subject: Troop reinforcements flown to Timor border after kidnapping, murder

Troop reinforcements flown to Timor border after kidnapping, murder

DILI, East Timor, Dec 15 (AFP) - Reinforcements from the multinational peacekeeping force have been flown to the border region after a civilian was kidnapped and another man murdered, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Between 50 and 100 infantrymen from Canada's Royal 22nd Regiment were flown by Australian Army Blackhawk helicopters to the village of Boeana on Tuesday, said Lieutenant Commander Chris Henderson, spokesman for the Canadian contingent with the International Force in East Timor (Interfet).

"It was an operation that reinforced the authority of Interfet in that area," Henderson told AFP on Wednesday. "It was a requirement to get them there quickly and show some force."

The operation went without incident, Major General Peter Cosgrove, the Interfet commander, told journalists earlier Wednesday.

Henderson said the troops dispatched after two incidents on Sunday and Monday were patrolling and checking suspicious activity in the remote area about 15 kilometres (nine miles) northeast of Maliana.

On Sunday, peacekeepers freed a man they said was captured by radical youths seeking revenge on pro-Indonesian militias. The youths are based in Maliana and the village of Marko, just west of Boeana, Cosgrove said.

The next day, a man was found with his throat cut in Marko but Cosgrove said the incidents did not appear to be related.

Cosgrove said peacekeepers freed the kidnap victim "within hours" of his capture from his unarmed captors.

The man was a native of Indonesian West Timor but was not a militiaman.

"We quickly moved on this particular group, freed the man that they had abducted, established that he was innocent, returned him to West Timor, and we'll do that every time," said Cosgrove.

"It's true that there is a small group that is radical and has declared that it wants to act against militia," Cosgrove said.

He gave no specific number of the size of the group, saying only they were "under the guidance of some older people" and could include former members of the Falintil pro-independence guerrillas.

But their actions were not endorsed by either Falintil or the National Council or Timorese Resistance (CNRT), the pro-independence umbrella organization that is presided by Xanana Gusmao, he added.

"I would rather characterize it as a misguided youth gang," the general said. "Falintil do not want to be associated with them in any way."

Cosgrove revealed that Gusmao, who is also Falintil commander, has stationed some Falintil members in the border region "precisely to reassure the militia that there is a line of reconciliation which he, CNRT and Falintil are looking to pursue.

"Now, I applaud that."

The CNRT's acting secretary, Venceslau Pinto, said he had no information about the kidnapping and could not comment.

He confirmed that Falintil commander Falur Rate Laek has been posted to the border town of Batugade to act as an observer.

Cosgrove said the radical youths were not believed to be linked to the murder of a young man whose body was found Monday.

"This appears to be a revenge killing," he said. "The man killed is reputed to be the relative of a militia person who is again reputed to have killed people during the troubles."

Civilian police from the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor were investigating, Cosgrove said.

Militias and their backers in the Indonesian armed forces went on an orgy of murder, rape and destruction after the August 30 ballot in which the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia.


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