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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

UN swoops on militia base

Dili residents survey their destroyed homes

UN peacekeeping forces have raided an East Timorese militia stronghold, detaining about 15 armed men and seizing a number of "military-style weapons."

East Timor
International troops in Blackhawk helicopters swooped down on the eastern town of Com late on Monday.

The peacekeepers swept through the town searching the few buildings left standing and making a series of arrests.

It was the second surprise raid within a matter of hours. No shots were fired in either operation.

[ image:  ]
More than 100 UN troops had earlier swooped on a militia stronghold in Liquica district, about 20 miles east of Dili.

A number of militiamen were forced to flee and one man was arrested, but later released after questioning.

Force spokesman Colonel Mark Kelly said the operation in Com was in response to reports of "ongoing murder, arson and violence". He said there had been no exchange of gunfire between the two sides.

Correspondents say the expanding operations show that the Australian-led force is beginning to make its presence felt across the territory.

Attacks on clergy

The raid followed reports that Indonesian soldiers leaving the area had killed nine civilians and five Roman Catholic clergy on Saturday.

The BBC's David Willis: "Grief and suffering has returned to East Timor"
Colonel Kelly could not confirm whether the operation was linked to the killings.

The attack on the clergy was reported to have happened near the town as a vehicle carrying a group of church workers crossed paths with a convoy of departing Indonesian soldiers.

The Bishop of Baucau, Basilio do Nascimento, said the dead included two nuns, two deacons, one student priest and several lay people.

The BBC's David Willis: "The peacekeepers are starting to make their presence felt"
The Catholic Church has become associated with East Timor's independence struggle.

Since the referendum last month it is thought that at least four other members of the Catholic clergy have been murdered.

In a separate incident, the UN said the bodies of six people, believed to be victims of pro-Indonesian militias, had been found in two separate graves on the outskirts of the East Timorese capital.

A BBC correspondent in Dili says that more than a week after their arrival the peacekeepers are starting to make their presence felt. But they are still reacting to events, and to do more may require a lot more troops.

Atrocity investigations

[ image: The civilian population is still frightened]
The civilian population is still frightened
The actions came as the UN Human Rights Commission voted in favour of an international investigation into alleged atrocities by pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor.

However Indonesia said it would not co-operate with the inquiry. It said its own investigation was sufficient.

Many Indonesian soldiers have now left the territory. All but a token force of 1,500 Indonesian troops were due to have departed by Tuesday.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke:"The church has now become a target"
However some soldiers said they would stay behind after the handover and join the anti-independence militias.

There have been fears that the militias might be preparing to attack the UN peacekeepers

A series of fires across the territory was blamed on the departing Indonesian forces.

The UN says East Timor will need more than $100m dollars in aid over the next six months to help recover from the devastation it has suffered.

The BBC's Robin Denselow accompanied the first UN mission to visit Baucau
Ross Mountain, the UN humantarian co-ordinator, said aid workers were considering airdrops of supplies to between 3,000 to 5,000 displaced persons in Com if they could not be reached by land in the next 24 hours.

Independence meeting

[ image: The refugees are slowly returning to their homes]
The refugees are slowly returning to their homes
Mr Annan is due to meet the Indonesian and Portuguese Foreign Ministers in New York on Tuesday to discuss the territory's transition to independence.

Indonesia says it may try to bring forward the date on which its parliament will ratify the East Timorese people's independence vote.

As East Timor's former colonial power, Portugal is expected to play a prominent role once Jakarta has officially handed over the territory to a UN administration.

Because of Indonesian sensitivities, Portuguese soldiers have not so far been deployed in East Timor.

Security concerns and the safe return of the thousands of refugees now in camps across the border in Indonesian West Timor are sure to be raised.

In a separate engagement, Mr Annan will also hold talks with Xanana Gusmao, the independence movement leader widely predicted to be the future president of East Timor.

Mr Gusmao is in the United States looking for political and economic support.

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