Indonesia: Bullets Over East Timor


February 16, 2008: In East Timor, peacekeepers led an effort to arrest several dozen armed rebels believed hiding out in the hills outside the capital. East Timor is a poverty stricken country that was once a Portuguese colony. When the Portuguese left in 1975, Indonesia claimed the area belonged to them, and basically invaded. The East Timorese resisted, and over a hundred thousand died over the next three decades as the Indonesian security forces responded with force. The UN intervened and East Timor became independent in 2002. But the country was broke, and long ignored tensions between the eastern and western parts of the country came to the fore. Major Alfredo Reinado was part of that feud, as were thousands of angry young men.

February 11, 2008: Violence escalated in East Timor when rebel army officer Major Alfredo Reinado led two carloads of his men in an attack on the home of East Timor president Jose Ramos Horta. Reinado was killed by a presidential bodyguard, and the president was badly wounded. An hour later, prime minister Xanana Gusmao's car was attacked by Reinado's men, but escaped uninjured. Australia ordered another 200 troops and police to East Timor, to help deal with the more aggressive rebels.

February 8, 2008: In East Timor, an Australian camp had an explosive thrown into it, damaging a vehicle.

February 7, 2008: In East Timor, Australian troops exchanged fire with men loyal to rebel army officer Major Alfredo Reinado, who represents the tensions between East Timoreans from eastern and western sections of the country. Reinado and his men have been on the run for two years.

February 4, 2008: An elderly amphibious craft sank during a landing exercise, and six of the 14 marines on board drowned. Incidents like this have caused the head of the armed forces to pledge a speed up in replacing old, and often inoperable, equipment. Over half the military's ships, tanks and aircraft are inoperable because of age or poor maintenance. This is to include curbs on corruption in procurement, but few believe corruption will go away.

February 3, 2008: In the Malukus, there was another clash between police and soldiers, which left one soldier and two policemen dead. Such battles arise from the long tradition of the army being a power unto itself. These powers are supposed to be gone, but many soldiers don't believe so. In this case, soldiers believed a rumor that a soldier had been kidnapped by police. A hundred armed soldiers surrounded a police station and violence ensued. The army sent more troops to disarm the out-of-control troops.




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