Four people injured in East Timor violence

30 May 2007 11:50:50 GMT

By Tito Belo

DILI, May 30 (Reuters) – Four people were injured on Wednesday when a
grenade exploded during gang fighting in East Timor’s capital as
campaigning for next month’s parliamentary elections got underway,
police and hospital staff said.

Police fired tear gas and warning shots to separate two groups of
youth fighting near the headquarters of the ruling Fretilin party in Dili.

An official at the National Hospital said one of those injured was in a coma.

Police operations chief Mateus Fernandes said 13 people were arrested
after the fighting.

“Police are still investigating the cause of the fighting. I cannot
tell you what triggered the fighting for the moment,” Fernandes told reporters.

Separately, more than 20 houses have been burnt and almost 300 people
have fled their homes in Ermera district over the past week in
violence related to the June 30 legislative elections, Zudencio de
Jesus of the district police said.

“In last week’s incident, 10 houses were burnt by members of
political parties and another 12 houses were burnt … on Monday
evening this week,” he said.

Hundreds of people, mostly supporters of the ruling Fretilin party,
have sought refuge in police stations and churches, the officer said.

Interim Prime Minister Estanislau da Silva said the violence was the
work of people who wanted to intimidate voters.

Outgoing President Xanana Gusmao will run for the more hands-on post
of prime minister in the parliamentary polls. Campaigning for the
elections kicked off on Tuesday.

“Irresponsible people in that district want to destabilise the nation
and prevent people from participating in the elections,” da Silva said.

“We will take concrete action to strengthen security so that the
elections can take place peacefully and democratically,” he said.

Gang clashes, often blamed on jobless and drunken youth, break out
sporadically in East Timor and fighters are often armed with machetes
and poisonous steel darts.

Divisions in East Timor’s security forces led to riots last year that
spun into deadly violence in which about 30 people died. Foreign
troops were sent in to quell the violence.

Indonesia annexed East Timor in 1975 after long-time colonial power
Portugal had set it free.

East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in a violence-marred
referendum in 1999. It became fully independent in 2002 after a
period of U.N. administration.

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John M. Miller john@etan.org
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

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