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Belo apologises to East Timor Muslims after rioting

Bishop Carlos Belo apologised to the country's tiny Muslim minority after a mosque was damaged in last week's unrest.

It still wasn't clear exactly what led to the violence. Trouble started on Tuesday after 500 students gathered at police headquarters in the capital, Dili, to demand the release of a fellow student arrested for alleged gang violence.

But officials said other reasons were to blame.

Belo's comments suggested tension between the nation's Catholic majority and the few hundred Muslims who live there may also have contributed to the violence.

Windows were broken at the mosque, four cars burned and a small shop connected to the mosque destroyed. No churches were damaged during the riots.

"I apologise on behalf of the Christian people for the violence against the Muslims," Belo said. "I wish for peace and solidarity among the East Timorese people. We have to work together even though we come from different religions."

UN acting deputy commissioner of operations Vic Josey said it wasn't clear what was behind the fighting.

The Age

East Timor calm after riots (BBC 5/12/02) | East Timor declares state of alert (4/12/02)

9 Dec 2002