Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dispatches from Dili - Troops move in

There is confidence on all sides that peace will be returned to East Timor
quickly as troops are deployed. The current conflict appears to be three way
between splintered army faction and police.

The following are word bites from the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Full reports
can be found at: Sydney Morning Herald - The Age - The Australian (photo source)

A team of 130 commandos flew into Dili this afternoon, securing the international
airport for the evacuation of Australians and the arrival of Lieutenant-General
Ken Gillespie, who is negotiating the conditions of the mission. They arrived
amid reports of 20 Timor police being injured in the fighting.

The violence first erupted last month when 600 of East Timor's 1400 troops
were dismissed after they deserted, complaining of alleged discrimination because
they came from the western part of the country.

The commandos will soon be joined by up to 200 troops from the frigate HMAS
Adelaide, which sailed into Dili harbour today.

Malaysia says it will also send troops, with Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak
telling reporters it will send about 275 military soldiers and 200 police officers.

Australia had been waiting to sign off on the details of the mission before
sending troops in but the escalating death toll forced the government to change

Howard said the change of circumstances did not alter the legality of the mission.

"We respect the sovereignty of East Timor and we are acting in response
to a clearly articulated, properly and legally-based request," he said.

Blood-spattered bullet cases, boots and communication radios lay scattered
on the street outside the Justice Ministry as the East Timorese capital descended
into chaos.

Rivalry between army and police has been an undercurrent of the present conflict
in East Timor, with pro-government FDTL soldiers frequently accusing the police
of having collaborated with the Indonesian army which occupied East Timor between
1975 and 1999. Army commanders were largely drawn from ex-guerrilla fighters.

East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri says the deadly clashes there between
security forces and disgruntled former soldiers are linked to a failed coup

Many of the soldiers of the East Timor Defence Force (ETDF) were trained by
the Australian Defence Force, including the rebel leader Alfredo Reinado.

Known among the Timor military as "Major", Reinado is in fact a navy
Lieutenant Commander.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was invaded in 1975 by Indonesia, which
held the territory until 1999, when a vote for independence descended into brutal
violence by Indonesia troops and pro-Jakarta militias.

UPDATE: Australian ABC

Just to add to the confusion -

The leader of the rebel military faction in East Timor says Australian soldiers
on deployment have nothing to fear from the troops he commands.

Major Alfredo Reinardo (pictured above) says he will work with troops, who have begun arriving
in the capital, Dili.

"They didn't worry about my side. Don't worry, I'm with you. I'm with
Australia. I'm with peacekeeping forces. I'm ready to cooperate with them based
on any agreement that will be reached by our President," he said.

No comments: