[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
East Timor hit by fresh looting
An Australian soldier looks as a building burns in Dili on 30 May 2006
A number of houses in Dili have been ransacked and set on fire
There has been fresh looting in the East Timorese capital, Dili, five days after Australian-led troops began patrolling the streets.

Many city premises were burnt and shops in one area were openly ransacked for food and other valuables.

Looters also targeted the Attorney General's office, taking files relating to 1999 violence blamed on Indonesia.

Tens of thousands of people have now fled their homes, and aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian crisis.

But an Australian commander rejected such claims, saying the peacekeepers were reining in rampaging gangs.

Some 1,300 foreign peacekeepers have improved the security situation overall, but there simply are not enough of them to patrol every street, the BBC's Phil Mercer in Dili reports.

It's not fixed, but we're getting there
Australian Brig Michael Slater

Tuesday's violence left several shops - once part of a vibrant commercial district - reduced to burnt out shells. Many people, including children, were simply helping themselves to supplies.

One of the looters was seen carrying pots and pans, while another - a young child - was wheeling a barrow with kitchen appliances.

In some houses anything of value has been stripped away or destroyed, our correspondent says.

Many residents have taken shelter at makeshift camps where basic necessities are running out.

TENSIONS MOUNT
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
May: Violence intensifies; government appeals for foreign assistance

Thousands of desperate people descended on warehouses where rice was being handed out. Many waited for hours in the baking sun, our correspondent says.

There were also indications that some of the violence was politically motivated.

Attorney-General Longuinhos Monteiro told the BBC that his offices had been looted on several occasions and that between 12% and 15% of the criminal archive had been stolen.

Some of the stolen files related to Indonesia's bloody withdrawal from East Timor, after a 1999 referendum.

Pro-Indonesian militias were accused of orchestrating the violence, which left more than 1,000 people dead.

'Getting there'

The government is holding more emergency talks on Tuesday to try to end the crisis.

The immediate cause of the violence was the sacking of 600 striking soldiers in March.

The soldiers, who were mainly from the west of the country, complained of discrimination against them by leaders from the east.

At least 20 people are reported to have been killed since the riots began.

On Tuesday, Australian Brigadier Michael Slater said his peacekeeping troops were gaining an upper hand against gangs of "gutless thugs" rampaging in Dili.

An Australian soldier checks residents of a Dili suburb for weapons
The peacekeepers say they are reigning in the gangs in Dili

"We've been taking the weapons off them and they are losing their freedom of action because we have so many soldiers out there providing the security among the population," Brig Slater told the Australian media.

"It's not fixed, but we're getting there," he said.

He added that although there were "some very large groups of internally displaced people", but "there is no humanitarian crisis here".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
East Timor's president asks people to stay calm



RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific