Dawn landing for first wave of peace-keepers

EAST TIMOR CRISIS Australian general warns Indonesia that his initial 2,500 troops will `respond robustly' to any renewed violence by militias

SHORTLY AFTER dawn today, a C-130 Hercules transport plane will land in the East Timorese capital, Dili, carrying the first wave of troops from the international force given the perilous and unpredictable task of restoring peace to the shattered province.

By late afternoon, 2,500 soldiers - most of them Australian, but also including 250 British Royal Gurkha Rifles - are expected to have arrived in Dili by air and sea. They will be followed by 10 helicopters and a naval ship transporting supplies and armoured personnel carriers.

The deployment of peacekeeping troops in the world's latest trouble spot follows a resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council last week giving Interfet, the International Force for East Timor, a robust mandate to restore law and order.

The next few weeks will see the force swell to up to 8,000 troops from 20 countries. Much of East Timor is devastated after militia groups opposed to independence embarked on an orgy of bloodshed, looting and burning.

The first wave of troops, due to land in Dili at 6.30am (23.30 British Summer Time), is likely to comprise several hundred soldiers from Australia's Rapid Deployment Force, based in Townsville, north Queensland. They are expected to secure the airport ahead of the arrival of the main contingent from Darwin, staging-post for the force, 420 miles to the south.

The force is led by Australia's Major-General Peter Cosgrove, who paid a brief visit to Dili yesterday to secure guarantees of co-operation from Indonesian army commanders. He warned that Interfet was ready "to respond robustly" to any violence.

"This is not a time for idle threats or words," he said after touring the ruined streets of Dili. "We will be here to ensure that all East Timorese are able to go about their business free of threat." Major-General Kiki Syahnakri, commander of the Indonesian forces in East Timor, said the army would hand over control of the province in a few days' time.

The militias - with renegade elements in the Indonesian army - are the wild card as the multinational force lands in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975.

The head of the force's British contingent, Brigadier David Richards, said yesterday of Indonesia's TNI army: "We expect co-operation, at least formally, although we are alive to the fact that at a lower level we should be prepared for anything."

The prospect that the tide is about to turn for luckless East Timor was signalled by the arrival in Darwin from Jakarta yesterday of the East Timorese independence leader, Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, who began drawing up plans for a transitional government for the province.

Among the troops deployed today will be representatives of other countries that have pledged troops, including Thailand, which has supplied the deputy commander of the force. The force will be supported by nine warships from Britain, Australia and New Zealand which sailed out of Darwin on Saturday.

International aid agencies are waiting to follow in the footsteps of the force, to begin a full-scale relief operation on the ground. So far, aid has largely been restricted to food drops from the air.

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: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high