East Timor has seen its fair share of violence recently. This time round, it is gang warfare that sparked the latest unrest.
The Dili Comoro International airport was shut off due to fighting between rival gangs of East Timorese youths resulting in two casualties. Hundreds of youths armed with guns, rocks and other weapons fought on a main road. Two main clashes broke out. The first one occurred on Tuesday 24 Oct 2006 after several hundred people gathered at an airport refugee camp with one person killed by gunfire. Another clash broke out early 25 Oct 2006, killing another individual. Two houses were burnt in all.
An Australian soldier opened fire on an East Timorese man and an Australian civilian was injured during clashes around its international airport. The civilian was injured in the fighting and evacuated from East Timor to a Darwin hospital in Australia. The Timorese man that was shot at was said to have pointed a pistol at theAustralia guard stationed at the airport.
"Initial reports are that a Timor-Leste national approached an Australian Defence Force position with a firearm and acted in a threatening manner," an Australian Ministry of Defence spokesperson announced. Given the political instability in the country and the potential of incidents like this to flare up, United Nations police are investigating the incident to minimize understanding.
Such urban unrest have brought fresh attention on the capacity of the Australian-led peacekeeping force’s (2500 strong) potential for order in the young nation. Up till now, UN spokesman Adrian Edwards maintained that the latest situation was still not fully under control. Authorities fear more violence on the horizon as former PM Alkatiri goes on trial.
At the outbreak of this latest bout of violence, the Australian authorities were unable to guarantee the safety of airport passengers. Even a mere few days before the airport violence outbreak, the Australian-led force in East Timor were deployed to control a riot sparked off by the discovery of two headless and limbless bodies wrapped in sacks in Dili. The subsequent bouts of violence saw, within days, four people killed and 47 wounded.
Australian injured in East Timor clashes (The Age, 25 October 2006)
Bishop tries to stop E Timor unrest (AFP, 25 October 2006)