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Cablegate: Timor-Leste: Local Counter-Terrorism Action Group Meets

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DE RUEHDT #0276/01 2790845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060845Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4573
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1136
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 1070
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0078
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1335
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 4117

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DILI 000276

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TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL ASEC ID TT
SUBJECT: TIMOR-LESTE: LOCAL COUNTER-TERRORISM ACTION GROUP MEETS

1. (SBU) Summary: Representatives of the Counter-Terrorism
Action Group (CTAG) countries, a G8 initiative intended to
support the U.N. Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee,
met for the first time in Timor-Leste on October 2. The group
concluded that while the current risk of a terrorist attack in
Timor-Leste remains low, vulnerability is high and the GOTL is
increasingly concerned about the potential. The most likely
threat would be external in origin and would seek to take
advantage of Timor-Leste's porous borders and limited law
enforcement capacity. The most likely targets would be the
United Nations or foreign embassies. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Australian Ambassador convened the first-ever
Counter-Terrorism Action Group (CTAG) meeting in Timor-Leste on
October 2 on behalf of Italy, the current CTAG Chair (Note:
Italy does not have diplomatic representation in Timor-Leste).
The attendees included the U.S. (represented by the DCM), Japan,
the European Commission, New Zealand, Spain, and the United
Nations. Participants shared observations on the current
terrorism threats and vulnerabilities in Timor-Leste, described
ongoing and planned visits and programs in the area of
counter-terrorism, and resolved to meet regularly and to update
one another in an effort to coordinate counter-terrorism donor
activities.

3. (SBU) The consensus view was that while the terrorism threat
in Timor-Leste remains low, Timor-Leste's vulnerability to such
threats is quite high. In terms of indigenous threats, the
Australian Ambassador noted that the small local Muslim
community in Timor-Leste is quite moderate in their views and
very well integrated into society. The Japanese representative
agreed, noting that he has met with both local imams, but
cautioned that both are from Indonesia (one from East Java and
the other from South Sulawesi) and regularly send Timorese
students back to their home provinces for training, indicating
continuing ties to groups of an unknown nature. The
overwhelming majority of the Timorese population is Roman
Catholic, however, and has no history of terrorist activities or
links with external terrorist groups.

4. (SBU) The CTAG participants noted that senior Timorese
officials have identified international terrorism as a growing
concern. The DCM noted that over the last few weeks the Prime
Minister, Secretary of State for Security, Director of National
Intelligence, and others had raised this issue with us and
requested counter-terrorism assistance. On September 25, for
example, Prime Minister Gusmao made a public statement shortly
after the killing of Noordin Top warning that terror can strike
any country and exhorting the Timorese military and police to
work to detect and prevent any foreign threats to Timor-Leste.

5. (SBU) Like the GOTL, the CTAG participants agreed that the
most likely terrorist threat would come from outside of
Timor-Leste, probably from neighboring Indonesia. Osama Bin
Laden, other Al Qaeda representatives, one of the Bali bombing
suspects, and Noordin Top himself have all publicly referred to
the international intervention in Timor-Leste, calling it a
"crusader-Zionist war against Muslims," and have threatened
"retaliation" for "anti-Muslim" violence in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste's vulnerability to international terrorism is high
due to its limited local policing capacity. Monitoring of the
"porous" land and maritime borders is extremely lax and even the
sole international airport in Dili has limited capacity to
intercept illegal aliens or criminal elements. The group agreed
that the United Nations and foreign embassies, despite their
relatively high security posture, were the most likely terrorist
targets.

6. (SBU) The CTAG participants identified a few issues worthy of
future monitoring and discussion. First, there is little
awareness of increasing legal and illegal migration of
Indonesians into Timor-Leste, a community that can operate
rather freely here but may be more susceptible to terrorist
infiltration. A significant infusion of extremist Indonesian
Muslims, for example, could potentially alter the moderate
character of the small, long-resident, indigenous Muslim
community. Second, while much of the international development

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assistance is focused on strengthening the Timorese law
enforcement capabilities, less attention has been paid to
Timorese intelligence capabilities. Timor-Leste appears to have
some capacity to monitor domestic threats, but little ability to
monitor international threats. Third, the group agreed that it
would be worthwhile to compare notes at the next meeting on
current terrorism threats and ongoing and planned
counter-terrorism efforts in next-door Indonesian West Timor.
HENICK

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