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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Out of Timor but still pursued by militias

They were displaced by the militias who continue to hound them in exile

By the BBC's Humphrey Hawksley

As refugees continue to stream out of East Timor, there have been rumours that militias track down pro-independence leaders who have escaped.

East Timor
One of the landfalls for the refugees is the remote island of Alor, a day's journey north of Dili.

A steady stream of small boats and ferries is delivering refugees to this island, together with militia who say they have come to protect them.

[ image:  ]
I was given rare government access to the camps and spoke to both the refugees and the militia there.

The militia make their presence known in the government camps with black tee-shirts bearing their logo.

One leader is 27-year-old Henrique Lopez, who had a previous job of organising cock fights and card games for gambling before joining the militia six months ago.

He said he had a list of six specific pro-independence politicians who had betrayed their people and had to be thwarted.

[ image: The militias can operate freely in Timor and on Alor]
The militias can operate freely in Timor and on Alor
Mr Lopez said he had taken part in the siege on the United Nations compound in Dili to stop the independence leaders escaping and that he would continue to fight as long as his people needed him.

That meant going back to East Timor to take on the UN peacekeepers "if they harrass my people," he said, but if they came in peace, it would be all right.

In a long conversation with Mr Lopez and his fellow militia it was clear that they were confused by the political turn of events.

Having been instilled with a mission to defend, they are unclear about exactly where the threat came from, and now see themselves as riding shotgun to the mass exodus of people from East Timor who did not vote for independence and who say they never want to go back.

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