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Indonesia arrests 120 Timor rebels after ambush

Far Eastern Economic Review - June 8, 1997

Jakarta – Indonesian security officers have so far captured 120 members of the separatist guerrilla movement in troubled East Timor after a recent surge of violence over the country's general election period, the official Antara news agency reported on Sunday.

At least 34 people died as a result of attacks by separatists seeking to disrupt the May 29 general elections, in which Indonesia's ruling Golkar party swept 74 percent of the vote nation-wide, police have said.

Antara quoted East Timor police chief Colonel Jusup Muharam as saying on Saturday that security officers had so far arrested 120 separatist members following the attacks and confiscated guns, daggers, spears and amulets from them.

"Security officers have so far arrested 120 members of the separatist movement," said Muharam, adding that the hunt for the rebels continued. Antara gave no further details. Police were not available for comment on the report.

In the most serious incident, separatists killed 16 policemen and a soldier in an ambush on May 31 as the group returned by truck after protecting election booths.

Another 17 people, including at least four rebels, died the day before the election and on the polling day, in election-related violence, police said.

Indonesia occupied the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognised by the United Nations.

The U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed concern on Friday at reports of recent violence in East Timor and called on all parties to exercise restraint.

Annan is scheduled to hold the next in a long-running series of meetings on East Timor with the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Portugal on June 19 and 20 in New York.

The meetings, to try to find an internationally acceptable solution to the issue, were initiated in 1983 by then Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru.