APSN Banner

Police attacker among East Timor rebels arrested for market fire

Agence France Presse - June 9, 1997

Jakarta – One of four men arrested in connection with a market fire in the East Timor capital Dili has been implicated in an attack on a truck last month which left 17 policemen dead, police said.

"One of the four men arrested over the Mercado Lama market fire was also implicated in the attack on the police truck in Baucau on May 31," said an official at the East Timor police chief's office Fauzan.

Fauzan said the four people arrested on Saturday were under intensive questioning. The four are believed to be separatist rebels. The official added that the truck bombing suspect was only believed to have played a token role in the May 31 ambush on a police truck near Quelicai in Baucau district.

Seventeen policemen died in the attack, 13 of them through a grenade being thrown into the truck and four others gunned down as they were trying to escape the fire.

East Timor police chief Colonel Yusuf Maharam has said the four were rebels who had also planned to set fire to government offices and a police station in order to seize weapons.

The four were arrested in possession of a car and a gas can used to set fire to the market late Saturday.

Fauzan said police were still searching for two other suspects, whose identities were revealed by the four currently in custody.

No casualties were reported but more than 500 stalls in the Mercado Lama were razed by the blaze.

Muharam said Friday police had arrested 130 people following a series of attacks and violence blamed on separatist rebels in which at least 36 people were killed in East Timor.

Separatist rebels are suspected of being behind several attacks on civilian and military targets since May 27 that have left nine civilians, five rebels and 22 policemen and soldiers dead.