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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 June 2006, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Clashes flare again in East Timor
Assailant kicks down door of rival gang member's house in Dili, East Timor on Sunday
The violence has spread from military factions to street gangs
Fresh fighting between rival gangs broke out in a district of East Timor's capital Dili on Sunday.

Youths threw rocks, set fire to homes and smashed windows in another eruption of the violence which has left at least 20 people dead in two weeks.

Malaysian and Australian troops sent to try to quell the unrest kicked in doors as they searched for weapons.

Tens of thousands of people have fled to refugee camps since the violence flared two weeks ago.

Some 2,200 international troops are trying to end the unrest sparked by the sacking in March of 600 soldiers who had gone on strike. The violence has since spread to rival ethnic gangs.

Australia, which has the largest contingent of soldiers, has said it favours bolstering the United Nations presence in the small country.

Sunday's clashes broke out in a district of Dili close to the airport.

Malaysian and Australian troops arrived in half a dozen armoured personnel carriers, conducting door-to-door searches to try to seize weapons and tear gas canisters.

But reporters at the scene said while their presence allowed firefighters access to put out fires, gang members melted away into back alleys only to regroup for further attacks once troops moved on.

Several buildings were torched.

'Only temporary relief'

Residents spoke of their frustration at troops' apparent inability to impose more than temporary relief from the fighting.

Malaysian peacekeepers drive past a burning house in Dili on Sunday
Residents bemoaned troops' inability to impose long-term order

"If they come, it's okay," resident Zeca Godinho told the news agency Associated Press, as a building burned nearby.

"But then they leave, and it starts again."

Mr Godinho said his family had fled to the airport to escape the unrest, but that he had stayed to defend his home.

Some 100,000 people are thought to have fled to refugee camps, but aid agencies have warned that the camps offer inadequate facilities and could themselves become flashpoints for violence.

Police force

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on Sunday that several hundred Malaysian, Portuguese, New Zealander and Australian police would soon be arriving in East Timor to join the troops there.

East Timor's own police force has been embroiled in the factional fighting and is in disarray.

Mr Downer, who visited the country on Saturday, has called on the UN to take command of the police force.

The UN scaled back operations after East Timor became an independent nation in 2002 following a 1999 referendum.

Peacekeepers carry out searches for weapons


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