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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Relief force answers E Timor call
East Timorese soldier in Dili - 23/5/06
Tens of thousands of people have fled Dili in the violence
International troops are heading to East Timor to try to quell the worst violence since the country's independence from Indonesia in 1999.

Australia, New Zealand and Portugal are sending troops after Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta said East Timor "could not control the situation".

Violence has increased between security forces and about 600 soldiers who were recently sacked.

The US and Australia have ordered all non-essential personnel to evacuate.

Two people were killed and another five wounded in shootouts around the capital Dili on Tuesday. Clashes continued on Wednesday with at least one person, a marine officer, injured.


Australian acting Prime Minister Peter Costello said Canberra's officials would arrive in Dili on Thursday to discuss deployment.

Feb: More than 400 troops strike over pay and conditions
March: Government sacks nearly 600 of 1,400-man army
April: Rioting by sacked troops leaves five people dead

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said Australia was offering between 1,000 and 1,300 troops and three warships, among other equipment.

In Portugal - the former colonial ruler of East Timor - Prime Minister Jose Socrates said Lisbon would send a contingent of paramilitary police in "a gesture of solidarity".

New Zealand was sending 60 personnel to Dili while the Malaysian Cabinet was discussing the request, reports said.

"This decision was taken because of the difficulty the national defence force has in guaranteeing security in this nation," Mr Ramos Horta said.

He told the BBC the foreign contingent would calm the situation and create space for dialogue.

The move comes after countries including the US, Australia and New Zealand updated their travel advice for East Timor and warned people to leave the country.

Mounting unease

The unrest began with the splintering of the armed forces in March.

Nearly 600 of the army's original force of 1,400 went on strike for better working conditions and to protest against what they described as favouritism in promotions. They were sacked in April.

The violence escalated and that month five people were killed, many buildings were destroyed and tens of thousands of people fled Dili fearing further unrest.

President Xanana Gusmao said security forces would go after those responsible for the violence, including a dismissed army officer, Major Alfredo Reinado, who is thought to be leading the uprising.

"The people of East Timor did not accept Major Alfredo Reinado's attacking of our soldiers," Mr Gusmao told the Associated Press. "We will hunt him down to stop the violence."

Australia led a UN-military force into East Timor in 1999 to end the unrest sparked when the population voted for independence.

East Timor formally became independent in 2002 and UN peacekeepers were deployed there until 2005.

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Two injured in East Timor unrest
23 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Residents flee East Timor capital
05 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
E Timor troops riot over sacking
26 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
E Timor nationhood proves rocky path
04 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
E Timor sacks hundreds of troops
17 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: East Timor
21 Jan 06 |  Country profiles


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