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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06DILI192
2006-04-29 15:57:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Dili
Cable title:  

MORE VIOLENCE IN DILI AREA LAST NIGHT, BUT CALM TODAY

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  ASEC  MARR  TT 
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VZCZCXRO8969
OO RUEHCHI RUEHNH RUEHPB
DE RUEHDT #0192/01 1191557
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O P 291557Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2445
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0416
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0354
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON PRIORITY 0343
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0200
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0214
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0285
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0086
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 1766
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 DILI 000192 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS
NSC FOR HOLLY MORROW
PACOM FOR JOC AND POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC MARR TT
SUBJECT: MORE VIOLENCE IN DILI AREA LAST NIGHT, BUT CALM TODAY

REF: A) DILI 189 B) DILI 184; C) DILI 181; D) DILI 178; E) DILI 169; F) DILI 152; G) DILI 147; H) DILI 144

DILI 00000192 001.2 OF 004


UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 DILI 000192

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS
NSC FOR HOLLY MORROW
PACOM FOR JOC AND POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC MARR TT
SUBJECT: MORE VIOLENCE IN DILI AREA LAST NIGHT, BUT CALM TODAY

REF: A) DILI 189 B) DILI 184; C) DILI 181; D) DILI 178; E) DILI 169; F) DILI 152; G) DILI 147; H) DILI 144

DILI 00000192 001.2 OF 004



1. (U) Summary: There was more rioting yesterday evening in the
village of Tasitolu, just west of Dili, and at least three more
people died, apparently shot by members of the armed forces
(FDTL) who had responded to the Tasitolu riot, in addition to
the two who had died earlier in Dili. Although senior
Government of East Timor (GOET) leaders and others attribute the
rioting to members of a radical group that had infiltrated a
peaceful demonstration by 595 ex-soldiers, there are credible
reports that at least a few of the ex-soldiers participated in
the subsequent rioting. FDTL patrolled Tasitolu and parts of
Dili last night and today, and their vigorous attempts to seek
out and arrest their ex-colleagues contributed to a climate of
fear and tension in Dili. Dili was, however, calm by the end
of today. Thousands of people fled the city and thousands of
other sought refuge in churches, police stations, military
headquarters, the UN compound, and Embassies including the U.S.
Embassy. The Embassy is secure notwithstanding the continued
presence on the compound of some FSN employees and their
families who are expected to depart early tomorrow. Embassy is
in touch with U.S. citizen employees and other U.S. citizen
residents of East Timor and has received no reports of harm or
serious danger to U.S. citizens. End summary.

More on Dili riot yesterday
--------------


2. (U) The Embassy has received more details from eyewitnesses
as well as official reports regarding the demonstration and
subsequent riot that took place in Dili yesterday afternoon,
with riot activity continuing into the evening. The following
is what we now understand regarding these events:

-- Around mid-day at least three groups of demonstrators
convened near the Government compound. The first two groups
comprised primarily young men who did not appear to connected to

the 595 ex-soldiers who had initiated the demonstration. (Note:
the 595 ex-soldiers are now generally referred to by all sides
as "the petitioners"). One of these groups of young men in
particular was agitating for conflict from the beginning, and is
believed by Government sources to consist of members of the
radical anti-government group Colimau 2000 (see Reftel). The
third group to arrive was made of a number of the petitioners.
The non-petitioner groups were heard to be shouting that they
had lost patience, that they wanted to remove the Prime
Minister, and that they were ready to die for their cause. A
number of the petitioners attempted to hold the crowd back (as
described in Reftel A); however, there are reliable reports that
a few petitioners were encouraging the would-be rioters.

-- When the group broke through and started moving into the
Government compound, a few of the petitioners joined with them
and participated in the violent destruction of property,
including burning at least two cars and breaking car and
building windows. One policeman was injured by a machete
during this initial melee.

-- The group effectively split into two as things proceeded.
The first was a group of approximately 200-300 rioters, mostly
young civilians but including at least a few petitioners, who
smashed cars and other property as they proceeded. The second
group apparently consisted of most of the petitioners who had
been at the demonstration, although eyewitness accounts vary.
This group was some distance behind the first group, marching in
an orderly and peaceful manner with a police escort. Both
groups proceeded west through the Comoro neighborhood on the
road that leads to the village of Tasitolu, which had been the
staging ground for the demonstration.

-- When the first group --- that is, the rioters --- reached
Comoro Market, they turned their attention to attacking the
market, perhaps because some vendors in the market are
"Lorosa'e" people from the eastern districts of East Timor. The
market vendors came out to fight the crowd, and police also
intervened with tear gas. A journalist covering the
developments said he saw an ambulance taking 22 injured people
and one dead person from the scene.


DILI 00000192 002.2 OF 004


-- Further along their path, the rioters burned a house and
destroyed a number of roadside kiosks.

-- When the rioters reached Tasitolu, they dispersed into at
least two groups, heading into neighborhoods on either side of
the main road and continuing their rampage. At this point the
police, including riot police, were on hand and attempting to
detain the rioters.

-- As in Dili, eyewitnesses to the rioting in Tasitolu reported
seeing at least a few petitioners participating in the
destruction along with a larger group of civilians.

FDTL join in security operations, kill 3 alleged rioters, target
ex-FDTL petitioners
-------------- --------------
--------------


3. (U) Up until late afternoon yesterday (April 28), all
operations against the rioting were carried out by the police
(PNTL). However, at about 5:00 p.m. yesterday, active duty
members of the armed forces (FDTL) became directly involved in
the operations. According to an official briefing, the FDTL was
given responsibility for the Tasitolu area and the adjacent
areas of the Comoro neighborhood. The PNTL were to continue to
patrol in the rest of the city. However, some FDTL were seen
during last night and today patrolling in other areas of Dili.
Also, Embassy staff saw joint PNTL-FDTL operations being carried
out in town on the road leading toward Tasitolu. Up until now,
while it appears that the FDTL is primarily responsible for
Tasitolu, the exact division of responsibilities remains murky.


4. (U) Shortly after 5 p.m. yesterday, FDTL members arrived in
Tasitolu to assist the police in ending the riot and/or
arresting the rioters. According to Colonel Lere, a firefight
ensued in which the rioters threw two grenades, slightly
injuring one FDTL member, and the FDTL responded with gunfire,
killing three rioters.


5. (U) Gunfire was heard throughout the night and into the
morning not only in Tasitolu but also in Comoro and in the area
of the U.S. Embassy, which is near Comoro. Emboffs heard some
of this gunfire, as did numerous other credible sources. In
addition, we received reports of disturbances in the Becora area
of Dili, which is on the eastern side of town, including 5-10
shots fired in the early morning. Finally, several Embassy
personnel saw a large blaze at Taibesi Market, which has been
the site of repeated disturbances in recent weeks (see Reftel B
and refs therein) in the early evening. An Embassy source later
confirmed that several houses in the market area had been burned.


6. (U) The areas in which gunfire was heard corresponded roughly
to the areas in which FDTL members were patrolling, although
some eyewitnesses to the Dili rioting early yesterday afternoon
also saw PNTL officers firing their guns in the air.


7. (U) Embassy has heard multiple reports of FDTL soldiers going
to the homes of petitioners' families and demanding, in some
cases at gunpoint, that they reveal the petitioner's
whereabouts. One of these reports was an eyewitness account
from a reliable Embassy employee whose brother is one of the
petitioners. Many Dili residents believe that the FDTL who are
conducting these raids may be more interested in exacting
revenge against their former colleagues than in investigating
particular crimes. According to FDTL Colonel Lere (the acting
commander of FDTL) and PNTL Commissioner Paulo Martins,
petitioners who are arrested by FDTL are promptly turned over to
the police, who will hold them for investigation and questioning
and release those who do not appear to have committed crimes.
However, several police officers have expressed concern to
Emboffs that petitioners should turn themselves in to the
police, rather than risk capture by FDTL. These police officers
share the general view that some FDTL members may be planning
retribution rather than simple detention.


8. (U) At approximately 10:45am today, Commissioner Martins and
Colonel Lere made a joint announcement via radio. They stated
that the PNTL and FDTL are working jointly to maintain security

DILI 00000192 003.2 OF 004


in Dili, that the situation was mostly calm, and urged the
population to remain calm. However, in addition, they announced
that they are currently attempting to detain all the petitioners
who were involved in yesterday's demonstrations.



9. (U) In a briefing to the heads of diplomatic missions today,
Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta continued to emphasize that
petitioners were not to blame for the violence, which he said
had been perpetrated by members of Colimau 2000 who had "seized
control" of the demonstration. However, in the same briefing
Colonel Lere reiterated that FDTL was attempting to arrest and
detain all of the petitioners. When asked why the petitioners
were being targeted for arrest if they were not involved in
criminal activity, Lere stated that at least one petitioner had
been observed participating in the Tasitolu firefight, and that
it was hard to know who had committed crimes and who had not
until the crimes had been thoroughly investigated.


10. (SBU) Both Foreign Minister Ramos Horta and President Xanana
Gusmao told Ambassador Rees that they would discuss this aspect
of the matter with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri the need to get
FDTL out of the law-enforcement business as soon as possible,
and particularly the possibility that house-to-house searches by
FDTL members seeking to arrest their ex-colleagues could
exacerbate the climate of fear and distrust among the general
population of Dili. President Gusmao was later overheard
telling someone on the telephone to "tell the Prime Minister the
armed forces must be removed today." At the end of the day the
Government issued a press release announcing that FDTL would be
withdrawn from law enforcement activities in Dili and
surrounding areas (presumably including Tasitolu) by tomorrow,
April 30. However, GOET sources report that FDTL will continue
to patrol Tasitolu and parts of Comoro at least until tomorrow
morning.

Current situation: calm but tense
--------------

11. (U) Most of Dili is currently calm and has been all day.
Communications within Dili have been difficult since yesterday
afternoon as the cell phone system is overloaded. Calls
frequently take numerous tries to get through, and text messages
are only marginally more reliable. This has added a further
challenge to obtaining updated information from Embassy
contacts. Flights in and out of the airport have continued as
usual and Mission personnel and others reported normal
conditions on the road to the airport. Many shops and gas
stations are closed, but a few remain open. However, almost all
the market stalls remain empty.


12. (U) At some time during the night or early morning, the road
to Tasitolu was completely blocked off by the FDTL. No one has
been allowed through and the area is reportedly completely under
FDTL control. We have been unable to obtain any reliable
information regarding developments there. However, one PNTL
source in Tasitolu reported this afternoon that the situation
was calm and under control.


13. (U) The most recent information available from the UN and
other diplomatic missions is that they have taken a similar
stance as the US Embassy regarding their staff and citizens. A
UN security advisory issued this morning stated that the
situation in Dili is calm but tense, and advised all staff to
stay in place if safe where they are. UN staff report no
further update in their security stance since then.

Thousands seek refuge
--------------


14. (U) With access to accurate and up to date news already
limited in Dili, and with that situation compounded by an
overloaded cell phone system, the vast majority of the
population does not have access to good information on
developments. As a result, the current situation, while
serious, has been further blown out of proportion by the Dili
rumor mill. Thousands of Dili residents have reportedly left
their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. Embassy staff and others
have seen throughout last night and today people with their

DILI 00000192 004.2 OF 004


belongings leaving their neighborhoods, including many
truckloads of people leaving Dili on roads that lead to other
parts of the country. The Don Bosco church compound, in the
Comoro neighborhood, reportedly has taken in at least 2000
displaced persons. Other churches around Dili have accepted
perhaps another 2000, and several thousand more (presumably
relatives of police officers and active duty FDTL members
respectively) are camping out in police stations, the police
academy compound, and the FDTL headquarters. Others gathered at
the United Nations compound and at several Embassies, including
those of the United States, Indonesia, and New Zealand. These
consisted primarily of employees of the UN and of the respective
Embassies, together with their families.


15. (U) Yesterday afternoon and last night a number of U.S.
Embassy FSN employees and members of their immediate families
were admitted to the Embassy compound. As of late last night
the total number of persons on the Embassy grounds was estimated
at no more than 100. Almost all of these were family members of
FSN guards who had expressed a fear of coming to work and
leaving their families unprotected. See EAC cable sent
concurrently. In addition, a crowd ranging from a few dozen to
several hundred has gathered outside the Embassy at various
times during the last 24 hours. Some members of the crowd have
unsuccessfully requested refuge in the Embassy, while others
apparently believing that it is safer to be in the vicinity of
the Embassy than in their neighborhoods. Early this morning
some Embassy guards inadvertently admitted to the Embassy
grounds a large number of people who were not Embassy employees
or immediate family members. At one point the number of people
inside the compound may have been 500 or higher. However,
Embassy personnel immediately began working to persuade people
to seek refuge elsewhere, and by day's end the situation both
inside and outside the Embassy has been substantially resolved.
At about President Gusmao came to the Embassy at around 2:00 pm
today and advised the people in front that the situation was
safe and that they should depart. Ambassador Rees gave several
similar speeches to those inside the compound during the course
of the afternoon. The President then went to the Catholic
Church in Motael (about a kilometer away from the Embassy) and
was able to convince the Church to take in everyone outside of
the Embassy as well as everyone who had taken refuge in the
compound. Embassy and USAID personnel worked with GOET
officials to ensure that food, water, sanitary facilities, and
rudimentary sleeping accommodations were brought to Motael. As
of late afternoon, most of the people who had been in the
compound had departed for Motael or for their homes.
Approximately 200 remain, almost all of them Embassy employees
or immediate family members. Emboffs have made clear to these
people that they will be expected to depart the Embassy compound
by tomorrow morning, and they appear to have accepted this
decision.


16. (U) Meanwhile, a handful of American citizens residing in
the affected neighborhoods have been in contact with Conoff. In
one circumstance, Conoff last night arranged to evacuate a
family that was residing in the Tasitolu area that is currently
cut off from the rest of Dili by FDTL blockade. Other Amcits
have expressed concern, but relayed that for now they plan to
remain in situ as they have not been directly threatened or
targeted and, in consult with Conoff, have assessed that it is
most likely safer to remain in a secure building than to attempt
to depart via roads where unrest may be continuing. Most Amcits
in Dili, however, are residing in neighborhoods that have not
been directly affected. All U.S. citizen employees of the
Embassy and other USG agencies in Timor are in frequent contact
with the Embassy and consider themselves to be safe in their
homes.
REES