Subject: AFP: East Timor PM mulls closing down violent martial arts groups

East Timor PM mulls closing down violent martial arts groups

DILI, December 5 (AFP) -- East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta Tuesday said he was considering closing some martial arts groups following a resurgence of gang violence which has claimed two lives.

One man was hacked to death and another beaten in clashes between rival martial arts gangs in the capital Dili on Sunday and Monday, a witness and hospital worker said earlier.

"The government has received calls for these martial arts groups to be closed and we are seriously studying (the requests)," Ramos-Horta told journalists.

They "do not reflect martial arts, but these 'gangs' are militias ... it's better to call them as such," he said, comparing them to the militias responsible for an orgy of violence and destruction in 1999, after East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia.

"Interior Minister Alcino Barris has met with UN police to activate East Timor's police as soon as possible to secure some of the areas in the capital Dili," said Ramos-Horta, when asked about some of the gangs possessing arms.

"We hope to collect the firearms swiftly and collect data on the people carrying out acts of violence," he said.

The tiny nation was rocked in April and May by clashes between security force factions which quickly degenerated into street violence involving youth gangs.

At least 37 people died in the bloodshed, which prompted the deployment of 3,200 Australian-led peacekeepers to restore calm.

Their numbers have since been reduced to around 1,100, bolstered by the presence of about 1,000 UN police.

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