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Seven Arrested After Riots in East Timor


East Timorese police have arrested seven people two days after rioters rampaged through Dili, the capital of the world's youngest nation. Many of those involved in the violence were recently fired soldiers.

Police announced the seven arrests Monday in connection with riots by hundreds of soldiers, who rampaged through Dili throwing rocks and looting shops Saturday night.

Police also said four people were injured in the violence and several houses were damaged.

The authorities say the rioters included many of the nearly 600 soldiers who were fired earlier this month after deserting their posts in a protest against working conditions and unfair promotion practices within the military.

East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has called for calm, saying the government and the security forces would try to resolve the problem.

But Joaquin Fonseca from the East Timorese human rights group Yayasan Hak says the mood in the country is tense.

"There are problems, but we've already had these problems for some time. I mean the social tension is quite high," Fonseca says.

Fonseca added that the problems need to be addressed not only within the military, but also within society.

East Timor, which only became a nation in 2002, was occupied for over two decades by Indonesia. Many of the dismissed soldiers are former resistance fighters.

The former Portuguese colony voted for independence from Indonesia in a United Nations sponsored vote in 1999, but pro-Jakarta militias, many backed by the Indonesian military, went on a rampage destroying large swathes of the country and killing over one thousand people.

The tiny country is now struggling to get on its feet. Infrastructure is poor, and the majority of people live in poverty.

The fledgling military has only about 840 full-time soldiers remaining after the 600 were dismissed, although the country has around 1500 reservists.

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