|Subject: RT: Interview
w/Cosgrove: militia still a threat
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
INTERVIEW-Indonesia militia a threat-INTERFET head By Tim Johnston
DILI, East Timor, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Pro-Indonesia militias in West Timor are still a threat to peace in East Timor, the head of the U.N.-backed foreign force in the territory said on Thursday.
``We belive that there remain a substantial number of militia who by their grouping, and by their rhetoric and perhaps by their daily activities, seem to be suggesting that they remain in military training,'' Major-General Peter Cosgrove told Reuters.
``Therefore you have to say there remains a threat,'' he said.
Cosgrove estimated there were about 5,000 militiamen training with everything from military rifles to machetes, although the number fluctuated.
``The numbers alone suggest that it (the threat) must be taken seriously,'' he said.
But he said the militias, blamed for much of the devastation in East Timor after the overwhelming vote for independence in August, posed a greater threat to the East Timorese than to the international forces.
``The individual skills of those militia would probably not compare at all with the sorts of soldiers who are arrayed to defend against such a threat, but against innocent people the threat would be significant.''
Cosgrove said he belived the militias were now receiving less support from the Indonesian military than in the past.
INDONESIAN TROOPS HALT MILITIAS
``We think we notice that there is a lessening of support,'' he said, adding he had heard of Indonesian soldiers stopping militiamen from harrassing refugees trying to return to East Timor.
Cosgrove, who heads the 15-nation international intervention force known as INTERFET, said almost all of East Timor had been secured but some areas were still at risk of hit-and-run attacks.
``I would not want people to put themselves at risk by settling in settlements very close to the border,'' he said.
INTERFET and the Indonesians use different maps often do not agree on the exact location of the border.
Cosgrove said he had been trying to set up a meeting with General Adam Damiri, the Bali-based regional head of the Indonesian army (TNI), since a border incident in October in which an Indonesian policeman was killed.
``The stumbling block at the moment is my inability to engage General Damiri...in a discussion to launch quick, and I belive simple, negotiations to set up these border protocols,'' he said.
Cosgrove has told his troops not to conduct normal operations within 1,000 metres (1,100 yards) of where they believe the border to be, but warned his troops would move in if necessary.
``Nobody should think that that thousand-metre gap is somehow sacrosanct and in there you can kill East Timorese, that will not be allowed,'' he said.
But he added that without a clarification of the exact border, all sides were running a risk.
``I think that anyone operating in the area of the border without some kind of confidence building measures being attempted is at risk -- TNI soldiers plainly, INTERFET soldiers, East Timorese, and indeed militia.''
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