Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Monday, September 20, 1999 Published at 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK


British troops start work in East Timor

British troops have been training in Australia

British troops have begun work in East Timor as part of the UN peacekeeping operation to return law and order to the territory.

East Timor
An Australian Hercules C-130 transport plane touched down in Dili at about 0040 GMT (0140 BST) on Monday carrying 30 Royal Marines, 20 Australian troops and large amounts of equipment.

The Marines are believed to be members of the elite Special Boat Squadron (SBS), the maritime equivalent of the SAS, although the Ministry of Defence refused to confirm this.

The troops will be joined later by around 250 Gurkhas.

The BBC's Ben Brown reports: "The situation is uncannily similar to Kosovo"
About 25 Indonesian army troops met the peacekeepers at Dili airport. But there was no sign of the militias and all seemed calm in the city.

The UK troops, who drove off the planes in Land Rovers mounted with light machine guns, immediately fanned out to secure the airport and vital road links.

Armed Forces Minister John Spellar said the second objective would be to take the militias off the streets.

[ image: The Ministry of Defence refuses to say if the Marines are SBS men]
The Ministry of Defence refuses to say if the Marines are SBS men
The next stage would be to get "vital facilities", particularly water, working again, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Spellar said the UN soldiers did not appear to have met with any resistance from the militias so far.

Indonesia has reportedly pulled out 80% of its 7,000 troops from the area, but Mr Spellar said it was "very difficult to assess" how many had actually left the territory.

"The militias may be a difficulty but at the same time they are now faced, not with women and children and unarmed civilians, but with well-organised, well-trained, well-disciplined forces," he said.

A lot of work was being done to get supplies in and the operation was going "very well at the moment", he added.

Trained in Britain

Asked about the controversial sale of Hawk fighter jets to Indonesia by Britain, Mr Spellar said the UK government could do nothing to prevent the three planes being delivered to Indonesia.

[ image: Indonesian pilots train to fly a British Hawk jet]
Indonesian pilots train to fly a British Hawk jet
However, he said that the planes would have "no impact at all" on the situation in East Timor "because the Indonesian military are co-operating."

He also confirmed newspaper reports at the weekend that 24 senior Indonesian military personnel had been trained in Britain since the May 1997 election.

However, he said that the training had "nothing to do with direct military operations", but would instead have taught the running of a "proper, well-disciplined military under civilian control".

Thousands are homeless

The International Force for East Timor (Intefet) has been given the task of taking over control of East Timor from Indonesian troops, who failed to prevent a murderous rampage by pro-Jakarta militias following the referendum on autonomy.

Thousands of Timorese were killed by the militias - who were composed of settlers from other parts of Indonesia - and more than 300,000 people driven from their homes.

The Australian-led ground troops will be supported by nine heavily armed warships including the British guided missile destroyer, HMS Glasgow.

Numerous Hercules planes have been landing at Dili and then returning to Darwin. About 2,000 international troops, arriving by air and sea, are expected in East Timor by the end of Monday, and about 7,500 by mid-October.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

20 Sep 99 | UK
Shadowy sister of the SAS

20 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Timor peace mission begins

19 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Annan accuses Indonesian military

19 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Gusmao prepares for government

19 Sep 99 | UK Politics
Ministers 'powerless' to stop jets to Indonesia

19 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Howard addresses Australian nation

19 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Who will make up the Timor force?

18 Sep 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Dili: a smouldering shadow

14 Jun 99 | UK
Gurkhas: A force to be reckoned with

Internet Links

Brigade of Gurkhas

The Royal Gurkha Rifles

The British Army

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online