Subject: Hundreds Loot Dili Warehouses [+Gusmao Urges Reconciliation]

also: East Timor leader urges nation to reconcile

Nearly 1,000 Loot Warehouses In East Timor Capital

DILI, East Timor, June 2 (AP)--Nearly 1,000 people looted government warehouses in East Timor's capital Friday, stealing computers, office chairs and file cabinets, as the tiny nation continued its decent into chaos.

Foreign troops deployed in Dili to restore order were nowhere to be seen.

Many of those taking part in Friday's looting spree had been waiting for rice handouts, and became angry after realizing the warehouse containing food relief had been emptied overnight.

They broke into nearby government warehouses, carrying out office furniture, car parts, even musical instruments and a saddle for a horse, loading them onto relief trucks.

Some were seen driving off on motorcycles carrying computer printers and chairs still wrapped in plastic.

Three Portuguese peacekeepers showed up more than an hour after the looting began, as did unarmed East Timorese security forces, dispersing the crowd.

The violence that erupted last week in East Timor was triggered by the dismissal of 600 soldiers from the 1,400-member army, but clashes between rival factions in the armed forces have given way to gang warfare, arson and looting.

At least 28 people have died in country's worst spate of violence since its break from Indonesia in 1999, and tens of thousands of people have fled the city or taken refuge in camps scattered across Dili.

East Timor voted for independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999 to end 24 often brutal years of Indonesian rule, triggering mayhem by militias linked to the Indonesian army that left nearly 1,500 people dead. After an interim of United Nations administration, East Timor declared itself independent in 2002.


AFP, June 2, 2006

East Timor leader urges nation to reconcile

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao made an emotional plea for peace after weeks of violence, as the tiny country's rebel leader pressed him to oust the unpopular prime minister.

The situation was tense but calm in the capital, Dili, where at least 20 people were killed last week in violence that caused the government to call in more than 2,200 foreign troops from Australia and elsewhere.

Gusmao urged people to stay at home overnight, his spokesman Agio Pereira told AFP, but denied the call amounted to a curfew. "It's his urging so that people can better protect themselves," the spokesman said.

Gusmao, a hero here for leading the guerrilla campaign that won independence from Indonesia, had tears in his eyes as he addressed police with a call for reconciliation between ethnic rivals from the country's east and west.

"Let us forget what has happened, the violence that has taken place. It is our duty to forgive each other and rebuild this nation that we all love, from the ashes," he said. "These moments are the most critical ones for us all."

Some female police officers had tears running down their cheeks listening to Gusmao, who urged his impoverished nation to "forget the words Loromonu and Lorosae", referring to the east and west.

Rival gangs from the two sides of the country have battled in the past few days, using machetes, slingshots and daggers. Houses and businesses have been torched, and tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.

The unrest began last month when about 600 soldiers, or around 40 percent of the armed forces, were sacked after protesting over alleged discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, a political rival who has hinted that Gusmao was trying to use the unrest to push him from office, took the decision to sack them and has been blamed by many here for letting the situation deteriorate.

Major Alfredo Reinado, the leader of the dismissed rebel troops, on Thursday pledged loyalty to Gusmao but demanded the resignation of the country's prime minister, whom he accused of organising illegal killings.

Reinado, said he would stay in the luxury hotel he has occupied in his mountain headquarters in the town of Maubisse until his "supreme commander" Gusmao orders him back to violence-wracked Dili.

Setting aside his M-16 rifle to address reporters, Reinado, 39, repeated his call for the sacking of the unpopular Alkitiri, whose dismissal of the soldiers quickly plunged the tiny nation into chaos.

He accused Alkatiri of ordering illegal killings, including the shooting of nine unarmed police last week, and said the prime minister must face an official investigation.

"I never tolerated any criminal things that happen in my country including the misuse of power for their own individual interest," Reinado said.

"He has to resign and face the court for all the criminal things that have happened under his leadership.

"A lot of the killing that's been happening has been ordered by Mari Alkatiri, a lot of the killing done by the FDTL (East Timor army) is also ordered by Mari Alkatiri."

Gusmao also visited a compound near the UN offices in Dili where thousands of displaced people have been sheltering from the violence, and one man in the crowd shouted of Alkatiri: "Our suffering will end if he is toppled."

But the prime minister, a minority Muslim in this overwhelmingly Catholic country, has refused to step down -- and challenged Gusmao's declaration Monday that he was assuming emergency powers and taking over control of the army.

The political division has heightened fears that the violence could spiral into all-out civil war in a country that has only been independent since 2002.

The head of the UN mission in East Timor, Sukehiro Hasegawa, said the situation remained uneasy.

"I think it's still very fragile, although it has been stabilised compared to a few days ago," Hasegawa told reporters.

"The situation is fluid and we have to reinforce our security patrolling, and also we have to help (international) police forces to come as soon as possible," he said.

-------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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