April 28, 2006

Two die as East Timor police clash with ex-soldiers

DILI (Reuters) - Two people were killed in clashes between
East Timor police and sacked soldiers on Friday, the latest
violence since the cash-strapped government dismissed more than
500 soldiers earlier this month.

It was unclear how many people were hurt, but a Reuters
photographer on the scene said a hospital official had told him
of 30 injuries.

"Two citizens were killed," police chief Paulo de Fatima
Martins told Reuters by telephone. It was not immediately clear
if the dead were former soldiers.

But the witness said East Timor police had fired into a
crowd of hundreds of ex-soldiers and their supporters who were
burning cars and throwing rocks.

"Police made an appeal, but they didn't listen ... They
beat the police," Martins said.

The protesters dispersed after the shooting and police
clamped down on security on the main roads of Dili, the seaside
capital of the tiny country of about 1 million people, with the
situation appearing under control by late afternoon.

Police were visiting residential areas of Dili, calling on
people to remain calm.

Friday's protest had been planned as the last in a series
by the sacked soldiers.

A one-time Portuguese colony, East Timor, north of
Australia and 2,100 km (1,300 miles) east of Jakarta, was
invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and formally annexed the following

Its people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a 1999
referendum marked by bloodshed in which an estimated 1,000
people were killed.

Most of the violence was blamed on pro-Jakarta militia
backed by elements of the Indonesian military.

After an interim period of U.N. administration, East Timor
became independent in 2002.

One of the world's poorest countries, it has considerable
energy resources but is only now starting to develop them.

(With additional reporting in Jakarta by Tomi Soetjipto)