May 25, 2006

Australia troops land in East Timor, secure airport

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian commandos landed in the East
Timor capital Dili on Thursday, quickly securing the airport to
the cheers of local residents, ahead of a total deployment of
1,300 troops to restore peace to the troubled young nation.

About 150 heavily armed troops took only minutes to
disembark from C-130 Hercules transport aircraft which also
brought Australian Lieutenant-General Ken Gillespie to
negotiate the terms of the deployment with the East Timor

Gillespie is vice chief of Australia's defense force.

As the foreign troops took up position, local residents
behind wire fences cheered and applauded, Australian television
footage of their arrival showed.

Malaysian troops were also on their way to East Timor,
where violence in the capital Dili has left at least six people
dead in recent weeks.

The inexperienced and cash-strapped government of the
world's newest independent nation has been struggling to cope
with clashes initially sparked by the sacking of around half
the army.

Australia led a U.N.-backed intervention force in 1999 to
quell violence after East Timorese voted for independence. An
estimated 1,000 people died in that violence, blamed mostly on
pro-Jakarta militia backed by Indonesian military elements.