Jakarta pledge to disarm militias

The Indonesian military, under pressure to rein in pro-Jakarta militias in West Timor, said it would start disarming them in a four-day operation starting today.

With the threat of losing foreign aid hovering in the background following the murder of three United Nations workers in Atambua, the government also announced that it was arresting at least six people for the killings, including several active Indonesian Defence Force (TNI) soldiers.

Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman told reporters yesterday: “The identification of the suspects has been made and they are in the process of being summoned and interrogated.”

TNI spokesman Graito Usodo said separately that a joint team of police and military personnel was dispatched to Kupang, the West Timor capital, on Wednesday for talks on the disarmament.

“We want to know how, when and what methods were needed for them to surrender their firearms,” he said.

“There will be a disarmament … so that the international community can see that we are serious.”

His comments came after Indonesia’s chief security minister Bambang Yudhoyono promised the UN Security Council in New York the TNI would disarm the militias forcibly if they did not surrender their weapons.

But the military yesterday stopped short of saying whether the TNI would disband the military-trained militias altogether, casting doubt whether this was yet another half-hearted pledge.

Indeed, it made a similar pledge earlier this year but without the results to show for it. UN peacekeepers have since exchanged fire several times with militiamen along the border of East Timor.

Observers believe that the aim of the militias is to destabilise the UN-administered territory that won independence from Indonesia last year.

It is likely, however, that Jakarta will not go easy on them now, given the heat it has been getting from the international community.

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