`If poll is lost the slaughter will begin'

A LEADER of East Timor's pro-Indonesian militia groups promised "civil war and slaughter" if Monday's referendum on independence produced a majority in favour of independence. Hundreds of people, including diplomats and journalists, left the capital, Dili, as militia violence spread in several parts of the territory.

In an interview with The Independent, Herminio da Silva da Costa, "chief of staff" of the self-styled Armed Forces for the Integration Struggle of East Timor, said his group would reject any result favouring independence from Indonesia, and that there would be a civil war if the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (Unamet) attempted to enforce the result with international peace- keepers.

"If Unamet announces that the pro-independence side has won the ballot I promise it will be civil war again," he said in the offices of a pro- Indonesian group on the Dili seafront. "If the UN says they have won, then the pro-independence forces don't deserve to live any more, because it is not fair."

Monday's referendum produced a 98.6 per cent turn-out, and foreign observers predict an overwhelming vote for independence after 23 years of brutal occupation by Indonesia.

But Mr Da Costa said that a result supporting independence, rather than autonomy within Indonesia, would be proof that the UN had rigged the referendum results.

"My plan is to bring the problem to the UN and ask them to hold another ballot, this time organised by Indonesia. If they refuse, I would rather go to war to slaughter all the pro-independence people, because we will be sure that they have cheated."

The pro-Indonesian militias have made similar threats before, but Mr Da Costa's words are particularly alarming, coming as they do in an atmosphere of rising violence and panic in East Timor. There were gunfights between supporters and opponents of independence in the village of Hera, west of Dili. The mountain town of Gleno, where a UN convoy was prevented from leaving on Tuesday, was reported to be under control of the militias.

Yesterday the two flights leaving East Timor were filled with hundreds of evacuees, many expressing fears of a bloodbath after the announcement of the referendum result, expected early next week.

At Dili airport families with children and a large number of Indonesian journalists queued with boxes and suitcases to board a Hercules transporter plane specially laid on by the Indonesian military.

Dili has been rife with rumours of violence for weeks but, after the gun battle near the UN compound on Tuesday evening, many people are taking no chances. "A neighbour near the house where I'm staying said that the militia are planning to burn it down this afternoon," said Wardah Hamidy, an Indonesain radio journalist from Jakarta. "The militias think that journalists support the independence side, so many of us are leaving today."

The BBC team is to leave today, after its Jakarta-based correspondent, Jonathan Head, narrowly escaped serious injury after being kicked and beaten by a militiaman outside the UN compound on Tuesday. The number of dead from that attack has risen to three, all of them local people apparently supporting independence.

A small group of militiamen, armed with knives and a homemade pipe-gun, briefly entered the Hotel Turismo in Dili, where many foreign observers are staying, and kicked and terrorised a Canadian woman working for a non-government organisation. Militiamen tried to prevent a man, an Australian of Timorese descent, from boarding the plane, but the situation was defused by Australian and UN officials.

The Australian government has a rapid-reaction force in the city of Darwin ready to evacuate foreign nationals if the situation deteriorates further, but is hesitating to deploy for fear of increasing panic and offending Jakarta.

Five hundred Indonesian police officers flew in yesterday to reinforce some 15,000 security personnel already in the territory, but their presence will do little to restore confidence.

Elements in the Indonesain military are believed to be training and arming the militias, in defiance of the stated policy of the government, which repeatedly insist that it is doing its best to keep order in East Timor.

Under the UN's mandate, security in the province is entirely in the hands of the Indonesian police, who have consistently failed to arrest, disarm or act decisively against the militias. Foreigners in Dili have been reduced to bribing policemen to guard their hotels, offices and residences.

There is growing agreement in diplomatic circles that armed international peace-keepers will sooner or later have to be deployed to prevent the escalation of violence. Even after the announcement of a vote for independence, such a move would create uproar in Jakarta and raise the prospect of a head-on confrontation between Indonesia and the international community. "The UN is not neutral; they support the pro-independence side," Mr Da Costa said. "If UN security forces come here, that will create another conflict. If there is a conflict, we have the Indonesian military behind us."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

Senior Infrastructure / Network Engineer (VMware, Windows, LAN/WAN)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Primary teaching jobs in Thetford

£1036224 - £1513056 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Educatio...

Primary teaching jobs in the Swaffham area

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Are you a fully quali...

Year 1 Teachers needed for day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week