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International forces, Timor-Leste police strive to boost security after death: UN envoy

International forces, Timor-Leste police strive to boost security after death: UN envoy

Visiting the scene of gang violence in Timor-Leste’s capital today, in which one person was killed and six houses burned down, the United Nations envoy to the impoverished country pledged that international forces working with national police officers will improve security ahead of this year’s landmark elections.

“I am convinced that the people of Timor-Leste deserve better and the United Nations in conjunction with national policing authorities and the International Security Forces (ISF) are working to provide that,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Atul Khare, who heads the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

Early this morning, UN Police (UNPOL) officers responded to fighting and arson in the Kampung Alor area of the capital Dili, however one person had been killed before they arrived, UNMIT said, adding that the fire brigade had also been called but were not able to contain a blaze that burned six houses.

Mr. Khare, along with the Minister of the Interior Alcino Barris, visited the area and spoke with residents, expressing his condolences to the family of the victim and his sympathy to those affected by the violence.

Separately, UNPOL are investigating the theft of 700 bags of rice from a UN World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in Dili, following which the agency announced it was halting distribution until further notice. When UNPOL arrived at the scene, a large crowd of people also attacked the warehouse throwing stones at the officers, security guards and warehouse staff.

Two protesters were also arrested today for organizing an unauthorized demonstration, while UNPOL is on alert for another demonstration planned for the capital on Wednesday. UNMIT and the ISF are also searching for five men who escaped from a detention facility in Dili at the weekend.

Last week, Mr. Khare was in New York briefing the Security Council on Timor-Leste, in which he backed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for more international police during this year’s elections, as well as for an extension of UNMIT’s mandate, set to expire on 25 February, for another year. Timorese Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta, also spoke to the 15-member Council in support of the one-year extension.

The Council created UNMIT in August 2006 to help restore order after deadly fighting, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, broke out in April and May and caused the deaths of at least 37 people and forced about 155,000 others – or 15 per cent of the population – to flee their homes.