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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK


Missing journalists found in East Timor

British troops were among the first into Dili

A British journalist and an American photographer who were attacked by anti-independence militias in East Timor have been found by Australian peacekeeping troops.

Jon Swain of the Sunday Times and Chip Hires, from the Gamma news agency, had fled into woodland outside Dili after the attack. They were not believed to have been hurt.

East Timor
They were found at 1220 local time after a rescue operation involving ground troops and helicopters with heat-seeking equipment.

But the Financial Times said one of its journalists, who has not been named, had gone missing in East Timor.

The attack on Mr Swain and Mr Hires was believed to be the first attack on foreigners since the peacekeeping force landed in the territory on Monday.

[ image: Jon Swain: Veteran war reporter]
Jon Swain: Veteran war reporter
Mr Swain's managing editor Richard Caseby told the BBC that the pair had been stopped in a car with their driver and a translator, a few miles from Dili.

The driver and the translator were abducted, but the journalists managed to escape.

Mr Swain has worked for The Sunday Times for 26 years. He has been a correspondent in Vietnam and Cambodia and the story of how his life was saved by a translator was portrayed in the film The Killing Fields.

The commander of British forces in East Timor, Brigadier David Richards, said the incident underlined that outside the capital of Dili, the island was "a volatile and dangerous place''. However, he said Dili was now "pretty secure''.

Marines in vanguard

About 30 Royal Marines - thought to be members of the highly-trained Special Boat Squadron - and 220 Gurkhas were among the first waves of troops to enter Dili on Monday.

The Royal Marines spearheaded the UN operation alongside 1,000 mainly Australian troops, landing in Hercules transport planes at the capital's small airstrip.

The heavily armed British soldiers, from the guided missile destroyer HMS Glasgow standing by offshore, immediately moved to help secure the airport, harbour and vital road junctions.

They were followed swiftly by their Gurkha comrades, with the whole 250-strong British contingent in place by late afternoon on Monday afternoon.

'No resistance'

Armed Forces Minister John Spellar: "It's a dangerous environment, but so far so good"
Speaking in London, Armed Forces Minister John Spellar said the troops would be involved in taking the militias off the streets, and "if necessary to disarm them."

The next stage would be to get "vital facilities" - in particular water - working again in order to prevent the spread of disease.

The force commander, Australian Major General Peter Cosgrove, said the troops "met absolutely no resistance" as they deployed in the shattered capital.

However, smoke still hung over the city and buildings were still being set alight.

The militiamen rejected East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence on 30 August and went on a rampage of burning, looting and slaughter with the collusion of Indonesian security forces.

It was that which led the UN Security Council to unanimously approve the force under Australia's command which moved in to quell the chaos.

The rest of the 8,000-strong multi-national UN peacekeeping force should be in place before the end of the week.

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