Thousands shelter in Catholic centres after East Timor riots

About 10,000 East Timorese civilians sought refuge at the Don Bosco Seminary of the Salesian missionaries in Dili while thousands more fled to a Carmelite convent, after the demonstration by ex-soldiers exploded into violence at the weekend.

According to Independent Catholic News, two people were killed on Friday and 34 were injured during the riots in which police and solders took over the streets. The country has seen weeks of unrest following the sacking of 593 solders last month.

The ABC reports that East Timor's national police chief said it is impossible to confirm or deny reports that between 10 and 20 people died in the violence in and around the capital of Dili.

However, East Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, who met his counterpart Alexander Downer yesterday in Australia, says reports of the violence in his country are exaggerated.

"I can assure Australians, Timor is very safe," he said.

Despite government assurances that security has been restored, Fr Adriano from the Dom Bosco Seminary in Dili says 10,000 people sought shelter there over the weekend and that 1,500 families are still living there, too afraid to go home.

The Government remains divided on how to deal with almost one-third of its armed forces sacked for going on strike over ethnic discrimination and many hundreds, some of them armed, remain fugitives and potential insurgents.

East Timor: thousands shelter in Catholic centres after riots (Independent Catholic News 2/5/06)
Fears East Timor tensions will escalate (ABC TV Lateline 2/5/06)

East Timor riots death toll unconfirmed (ABC Radio The World Today 2/5/06)
Hundreds of East Timorese flee homes after clashes (Reuters 29/4/06)

3 May 2006