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Saturday, August 28, 1999 Published at 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

No let-up in Timor violence

Lucky to be alive after militias attacked in western Maliana district

A wave of violence in East Timor is continuing ahead of Monday's vote on the territory's future, despite international calls for restraint.

East Timor
Pro-Jakarta militias roamed unchecked through the provincial capital, Dili, sending hundreds of people fleeing in terror.

Frightened residents seeking refuge in a Roman Catholic mission in Dili said armed bands had threatened to kill those who voted to sever ties with Jakarta.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Dili: "Fear has sucked the life out of this town"
Militias have killed hundreds in the run-up to Monday's landmark vote, in which East Timorese will choose between independence or wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia.

At least seven people are known to have been killed since Friday, the last day of campaigning, and the start of a two-day "cooling off" period before voting.

International concern

A spokesman for the UN, David Wimhurst, welcomed as positive a reported meeting in the coastal city of Baucau between the militias and the armed wing of the Council for the Resistance of East Timor (CNRT), Falantil.

[ image: Many people have fled their homes in fear]
Many people have fled their homes in fear
The United Nations has accused sections of the Indonesian military of backing the millitias' terror campaign, and is demanding that Indonesia take urgent action to restore law and order.

It also strengthened its police and military contingent and extended the mandate of the UN Mission in East Timor (Unamet) until the end of November.

The head of a European Union observer delegation, Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews, says he is deeply worried about what he calls the outrageous happenings in the territory.


Overnight militia attacks, which included the torching of part of a village, left a number of people dead. One pro-independence leader was killed and then beheaded.

[ image:  ]
According to the UN, at least one person died on Friday night in the eastern town of Los Palos and up to three in the western militia stronghold of Maliana.

But a pro-independence leader said at least six had died in Maliana.

There were also reports that the militias had shot dead a separatist activist in Dili on Saturday.

UN spokesman David Wimhurst said the attacks appeared to be "a last attempt by the militias to destablise the situation before we go to the vote on Monday".

Ballot under threat

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Dili: "Much still depends on the Indonesian authorities"
In areas worst affected by violence, the UN says thousands of people may have been forced from their homes and will be unable to vote.

A BBC correspondent in the territory says the UN is gambling that voting will run smoothly in enough areas to ensure the referendum reflects the wishes of the people.

The ballot is widely predicted to go in favour of independence which would end more than 23 years of Indonesian occupation in the former Portuguese colony.

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