Subject: Isolated Timor enclave left unguarded and alone

Isolated Timor enclave left unguarded and alone

By Andrew Marshall

DILI, East Timor, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Isolated in Indonesian territory, a small enclave of troubled East Timor remains unguarded by multinational troops and largely untouched by aid agencies, despite mounting reports of atrocities there.

The enclave of Oecussi-Ambeno on the northern coast of Indonesian West Timor is a legacy of agreements between the Portuguese and Dutch to carve up the island last century. Cut off from the rest of East Timor, it presents an acute problem for the U.N.-backed INTERFET troops sent to secure East Timor.

INTERFET insists it will soon establish a presence in the enclave of around 60,000 people, where East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao said at least 65 people have been killed in recent days by pro-Jakarta militia and Indonesian troops.

``We've always considered that the Oecussi-Ambeno enclave was a clear part of our mandate and that it was included in the overall territory of East Timor,'' INTERFET Chief-of-Staff Colonel Mark Kelly said on Monday.

But INTERFET will not say when it plans to establish a foothold in the enclave, and the tricky problem of negotiating access with Indonesian authorities remains. Pro-independence groups in East Timor say an international presence in Oecussi-Ambeno is needed urgently.

Taur Matan Ruak, commander in East Timor of the Falintil pro-independence guerrillas, has urged the international community to move in as soon as possible, saying Falintil intelligence suggests recent atrocities there.

Gusmao said on Monday East Timorese resistance gathered in Darwin had reliable information that at least 50 people were killed in Oecussi-Ambeno two days ago.

``Twelve trucks with TNI (Indonesian military) and militias entered Oecussi and killed more than 50,'' Gusmao told a news conference in the northern Australian city of Darwin.

``The bodies were burned, they burned also the houses,'' he said. ``On the 12th of October they killed five people, on the 13th seven people and on the 14th three people.''

With no presence in the enclave, the international community is unable to verify such reports.

``I can't confirm those reports,'' Kelly said. He said Indonesian army commanders in Dili had told him there were no Indonesian military or police left in Oecussi-Ambeno.

PLEA FOR HELP

Earlier this month, a 14-year-old boy trekked from the enclave through the border areas of West Timor, where thousands of anti-independence militiamen are massed, with a letter for INTERFET commander Major-General Peter Cosgrove.

After slipping across the East Timor border, the boy was found by troops near the town of Batugade and later met Cosgrove to present the letter, asking for help for the enclave.

``He was introduced to the commander and the letter was handed over,'' Kelly said. ``He is now being looked after by Matan Ruak in one of the Falintil cantonments.''

Aid officials say there is little information on the situation in the enclave.

``We can't establish a presence there until the troops get there. And even then there are questions of transport and logistics,'' said an aid official at the United Nations compound in Dili. ``We need to get the Indonesians to co-operate.''

The United Nations says the enclave was relatively quiet ahead of the August 30 ballot in which East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence, provoking a wave of murder and arson by pro-Jakarta militia and parts of the Indonesian military.

Pro-Indonesia militia, who still harbour plans to break up East Timor by splitting away the western districts where support for Indonesia is stronger, may see Oecussi-Ambeno as an ideal place to start.

It is unclear how many in the enclave support independence -- the United Nations refused to release district-by-district vote tallies in case this led to pressure to break East Timor up.


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