Anarchy in Timor as poll result looms

WITH HOURS to go before the announcement of the result of East Timor's independence referendum, armed gangs of pro-Indonesia militiamen were shooting in the streets of the capital, Dili, last night.

Towns and villages across the territory were in a state of anarchy, as the militias burnt houses and attacked local United Nations staff unhindered by Indonesian police and soldiers. The UN's regional office in Maliana was evacuated yesterday morning and 54 people, including 14 East Timorese employees, travelled under guard to Dili, after two local drivers were killed and five others were abducted.

"They are burning everything," said one UN official after reaching Dili. "They don't respect anything. They're out of control, they are crazy."

As vote counting continued in Dili, the UN Assistant Mission in East Timor (Unamet) said that the result of Monday's referendum will be announced this morning, at a press conference expected to be broadcast live on local television. The official Unamet radio programme was briefly taken off the air, and the territory's single newspaper was unable to publish yesterday after staff were intimidated by militia violence. Police were called out to East Timor's only TV transmission tower after reports that militias were threatening to sabotage it.

Shooting was heard in the centre of Dili late into the night, after another day of violent disorder in which members of the Aitarak militia burnt houses in the east of the city. Gunfire and arson was also reported in the southern town of Same and in villages in hills above Liquisa, 40 minutes drive from Dili. Two charter planes left the city yesterday, carrying foreign observers, diplomats, and journalists but the Australian government kept on hold plans for a naval evacuation of foreign nationals.

The Indonesian Defence Minister, General Wiranto, was expected to arrive in Dili early this morning, with 1,400 soldiers due to follow as reinforcements. The purpose of his visit was unclear, but foreign diplomats in Dili said that it might bring temporary respite to East Timor, since any obvious disturbances would be an embarrassment to the man ultimately responsible for the territory's security.

Tony Blair sent a message to the Indonesian president, B J Habibie, urging him to enforce order in East Timor as diplomatic moves to dispatch peace- keepers to the territory gathered momentum in the UN. The Foreign Office minister John Battle is being sent to Jakarta as a special representative on East Timor and the HMS Glasgow has been put on standby off Timor to help with a possible evacuation.

This morning's announcement is expected to reveal a big majority in favour of independence after 98.6 per cent of registered voters turned out. Diplomats believe that elements in the Indonesian military want to sabotage the vote by provoking Falintil, the East Timorese Independence guerrillas, who are voluntarily confining themselves to isolated cantonment areas. After fomenting a civil war, the army would then have an excuse to step in to restore order.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue