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Violence Increasing In Timor-Leste

Violence Increasing In Timor-Leste, UN Refugee Agency Reports

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is voicing alarm about rising violence in Timor-Leste, where the agency today gave the Government 1,500 family-size tents, plastic sheeting and other relief items to help people affected by unrest earlier this year.

"UNHCR is very concerned at the recent escalation of violence in Dili -- in and around some displacement sites themselves -- as well as within communities," agency spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

"Burning and stoning of houses in the capital has increased in recent days, as the city has returned to a higher level of violence," he said. "There appear to be attempts by some elements to polarize communities according to their place of origin."

An estimated 1,500 homes in Dili were destroyed or significantly damaged by arson during the unrest that began in April, according to UNHCR. Dozens were killed and some 155,000 forced to flee their homes after clashes broke out following the Government's dismissal of about 600 soldiers who had gone on strike.

While many people have returned to their homes in recent weeks, the displaced population remains large. According to current official estimates, there are 67,900 internally displaced persons in Dili while 78,000 people are staying primarily with host families outside the capital.

According to UNHCR protection staff, in some camps, internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in fear of attacks and intimidation, and some of those who have returned to their homes are also fearful of night-time attacks. Mr. Redmond pointed to a "clear need for an ongoing strong and robust international security presence until national institutions can be rebuilt" in Timor-Leste, which the UN helped guide to independence from Indonesia in 2002.

Last week expanded UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). Its mandate includes improving security, providing economic assistance, and supporting next year's presidential and parliamentary elections. The mission's civilian component will include more than 1,600 police personnel and up to 34 military liaison and staff officers initially.


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