Peacekeepers Kill 3 in East Timor
DILI, East Timor (AP) _ Peacekeepers battled with anti-independence attackers on East Timor for more than an hour Saturday, killing three of the militiamen and wounding three others, peacekeeping officials said.
It was the Australian-led force’s bloodiest clash since it was deployed on the embattled Indonesian island Sept. 20 to stop a rampage by Indonesian forces and their militant allies after the territory voted for independence.
No one in the international force was injured in the fighting near Marko, a village about 10 miles from Indonesian-controlled West Timor, said peacekeeping spokesman Col. Mark Kelly.
``The engagement...resulted in approximately three militia killed in action and three militia reported as wounded,″ said Kelly, who is also the chief of state of the multinational force.
He said a reconnaissance patrol of about half a dozen peacekeepers was attacked at 7 a.m. by a group of about 20 militiamen. After a battle of between 60 and 90 minutes, a rapid reaction peacekeeping force flew to the area by helicopter and evacuated the foreign patrol.
Militia leaders who fled to West Timor with their followers when the peacekeepers arrived in East Timor have repeatedly threatened to launch a guerrilla war against the foreign forces.
The majority of Indonesian soldiers who had controlled East Timor for 24 years have returned to their country since the independence vote on Aug. 30 and the mayhem that followed.
The peacekeepers forces, who number about 8,000, have taken control of Dili, the burned out capital of East Timor, are now deploying to most other cities in the territory.
They also are boosting their presence along the border with West Timor, where a clash last week with militants and Indonesian soldiers and policeman standing nearby led Jakarta to accuse the peacekeepers of violating Indonesia’s sovereignty.