Accessibility links

Breaking News

Timorese Militia Leader Refuses to Surrender Weapons

The leader of a breakaway militia group in East Timor says he and his men will not surrender their weapons until their security is guaranteed. The militia leader also says Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri armed his men and asked them to intimidate political opponents.

High in the hills outside the capital Dili, Vicente da Concecao, also known as Commander Railos, met with East Timor's foreign minister, Jose Ramos-Horta.

Da Concecao refused to surrender his weapons to Ramos-Horta, apparently because he first wanted a guarantee of security for his men.

The foreign minister urged the men to give up their guns, following the example of another militia group, which began handing over weapons a few days ago.

Tiny East Timor has suffered through weeks of violence and political unrest, sparked by the dismissal of 600 soldiers who had staged a strike to protest alleged discrimination. At least 20 people have died and more than 100,000 had to flee their homes.

Australian and other foreign peacekeeping troops rushed to the country last month and have been disarming the different factions.

Da Concecao says Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri armed his men to silence Mr. Alkatiri's critics, including the dismissed soldiers, known as petitioners.

Da Concecao says he met in early May with Mr. Alkatiri and they discussed stopping the prime minister's critics.

Da Concecao says the prime minister did not speak directly about the petitioners, but told him the guns were for carrying out his duties. The militia leader says Mr. Alkatiri told him his duty is "you have to watch opposition groups."

But Da Concecao and his 105 men were later attacked by the East Timor military, and four of the men were killed. He says that prompted him to abandon his support for Mr. Alkatiri.

Mr. Alkatiri denies the allegations.

The militia chief says he wants East Timor to put Mr. Alkatiri before an international court, and he is prepared to testify against him. The government has agreed to let the United Nations organize an investigation of the recent strife.