East Timorese Militia Man Arrested
DILI, East Timor (AP) _ Multinational peacekeeping forces said today they had arrested a leader of a notorious anti-independence militia, a move intended to send a message to those out to wreak havoc in East Timor.
``You can’t run, you can’t hide, justice is here,″ said Maj. Chip Henriss-Anderssen, who announced the arrest of Caitano Da Silva, a platoon commander and the most senior member of the Aitarak militia to be caught so far.
Troops and armored personnel carriers sealed off a central district near Dili’s port and conducted a house-to-house search for militiamen. Blackhawk helicopters hovered overhead throughout the operation, the most active step the force has taken so far to seek out people responsible for the tension in the virtually deserted city.
Da Silva, who was arrested at the hotel that once was the group’s headquarters, is among dozens of suspected militia members the international forces have detained since arriving in Dili on Monday. They have also confiscated hundreds of machetes, knives and homemade guns.
The arrest came as the U.N. Human Rights Commission met in special session in Geneva to discuss a proposal to send a fact-finding mission to East Timor.
``Extremely grave violations of human rights have been committed,″ Finnish Ambassador Pekka Huhtaniemi said Thursday on behalf of the European Union.
Indonesia opposed the creation of an international mission and said it should be left to Jakarta to conduct any inquiry into alleged human rights abuses. The Indonesians were supported by other Asian countries among the 53-member body. The meeting continues today.
Hundreds, and perhaps thousands of people were killed when the militias went on a rampage of killing and looting after a referendum Aug. 30 on independence from Indonesia. Human rights groups say the operation was orchestrated by the military to annul the vote _ which was overwhelmingly pro-independence.
In Jakarta, meanwhile, anti-riot police stormed into a university campus after a day of student protests over parliament’s approval of new emergency powers for the military.
The army was widely blamed for orchestrating the violence in East Timor and has a long history of repression in Indonesia’s 54-year history since independence from the Dutch.
Scores of students and police were injured in Thursday’s melee of firebombs and volleys of rubber bullets, the worst street protests in Jakarta since student unrest began the slide toward President Suharto’s ouster last year.
In Dili, the multinational force commander warned that his men will shoot to kill anyone who threatens them or East Timor’s terrified citizens.
The warning from Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove came after a tense day of gunfire Thursday, when departing Indonesian soldiers let loose with automatic weapons in what could be a show of frustration at being forced to leave the territory Indonesia has possessed since 1975.
No one was hurt in any of the shootings, and the gunmen were not found. Marauding pro-Indonesian militias also still roamed outside the perimeters of the Australian-led force.
But the incidents prompted Cosgrove to warn: ``If they carry those weapons openly, if they point them at any other East Timorese or at my soldiers, then we will use lethal force against them. That time is possibly not far away.″
A British officer said the shootings could have been meant to test the reflexes of the multinational units and learn their response drills.
On Wednesday, a Dutch journalist was hacked to death when he approached a known militia stronghold. He was the first foreign casualty of the upheavals in East Timor.
Determined not to leave anything behind, Indonesian soldiers vandalized and set fire to their barracks before departing, leaving behind live ammunition to explode in the heat. Anti-foreigner graffiti was sprayed on the charred walls. Pro-independence supporters also engaged in arson, burning down a government building and setting an Indonesian flag afire.
The white colonial residence of the governor, one of Dili’s most imposing buildings, went up in flames today.
Cosgrove said he had no authority to act against the arsonists. ``A box of matches is not an illegal instrument in Dili at the moment,″ he said.
About 3,000 multinational soldiers were on the ground as of midday Thursday, with another 4,500 yet to come. The commander has said he will try to speed up the deployment, admitting he does not have the manpower to secure all residential areas of the capital.
Cosgrove said he had reports that anti-independence militias who wrought havoc on East Timor were massing across the border in West Timor. They could easily conduct raids against the peacekeepers or the people they are supposed to protect.
In Darwin, Australia, the World Food Program said Indonesian troops hijacked two of four trucks carrying the first aid shipments of rice Thursday to starving refugees in the pro-independence stronghold of Dare. About three tons of rice did make it to the refugees, the WFP said.