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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Gurkhas bring hope to Timor town

Those needing urgent attention were evacuated to Dili

British Gurkhas in East Timor have reached the eastern town of Vikeke, bringing nearer the arrival of desperately needed aid and medical supplies.

East Timor
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke was with the patrol as it entered an area that has been cut off since militiamen opposed to the territory's vote for independence went on the rampage.

Many of the inhabitants of the town, about 100km south-east of the capital Dili, were in urgent need of medical attention.

Jeremy Cooke: There is a chronic shortage of drugs
But without protection from the international troops it has been difficult to get aid through and there has been a chronic shortage of medical supplies.

Now a medical evacuation is under way.

The Gurkhas were on high alert, although the militias are now mainly concentrated in the west of the province.

On Sunday, an Australian patrol shot dead an Indonesian policeman in a clash on the border with neighbouring West Timor, and the situation is still unpredictable across East Timor.

The UN-backed force has come in for criticism for its apparent slowness in reaching areas already vacated by the militias.

But its commander, Major-General Peter Cosgrove, defended his tactics.

He said that if he spread his troops too thinly, he risked tempting attacks by "criminal adversaries".

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