Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Three killed in clashes at East Timorese refugee camp

JAKARTA (JP): Three people were shot dead and two others sustained injuries in clashes at a camp housing East Timorese refugees in Kupang, capital of East Nusa Tenggara, Antara reported on Friday.

Police investigating the violence have ruled out food shortages following the Indonesian government's termination of its aid relief operation, or political motives as being responsible for the fatal clashes at the Tuapukan refugee camp.

East Nusa Tenggara Police Chief Brig. Gen. Jusuf Sudradjat said group rivalry was the more probable cause.

Police have deployed additional personnel to secure the area, he said.

Two dead victims were identified as Melkianus Lilo, 24, a local resident of the village and Antonio Soares, 60, a refugee from Baucau regency of East Timor. The identity of the third victim was not known. The wounded victims were both East Timorese: Jose Gomez, 37, who served in the Indonesian Military, and Guido Soares, 18, from Baucau regency.

WZ Johannes General Hospital said the victims were shot by homemade as well as standard military rifles.

Refugees in Tuapukan said the clashes pitted two gambling syndicates managed by former servicemen from Viqueque and Los Palos regencies in East Timor against one another.

Following the clashes, Kupang Police Chief Lt.Col. Agus Kusnadi led a team to raid the refugee camp, taking several people for questioning and confiscating firearms from refugees.

The Tuapukan camp has seen its share of troubles in the past. Many of the remaining 20,000 refugees served in the Indonesian Military (TNI) units in Viqueque, Baucau, Los Palos, and Aileu regencies of East Timor.

In Jakarta, Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono challenged the United Nations to come up with proof to back up their claim that TNI was responsible for many of the problems along the East Timor border.

"We have made our demands clear to the chief of UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the commander of the UN peacekeeping forces to stop accusing the TNI through the media. They have to give us proof of their allegations," Juwono said.

"We can arrange cooperation between the troops to prevent unnecessary conflicts along the border," he said.

Air Force Chief of Staff, Marshall Hanafie Asnan, meanwhile warned the UNTAET against violating Indonesia's airspace.

"We will be stern. We will shoot down violators. We cannot keep lodging protests because they (UNTAET) have shown unfriendly responses," Hanafie said.

TNI has claimed that UN peacekeeping forces in East Timor have committed 16 border violations and two violations of Indonesian airspace.

The Air Force has intensified surveillance over the Attambua and Kupang regencies.

"We will deploy more jet fighters at Kupang and improve our ability to monitor violations of our air space," he said. (dja)