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Archive for Sunday, May 28, 2006

Residents flee violence by security factions

May 28, 2006

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— Thousands of people in East Timor's capital fled Saturday to churches, schools and other sanctuaries after surging violence between factions inside the security forces this week ignited a wider feud between residents from the east of this tiny country and those from the west.

Plumes of smoke rose over Dili's southern neighborhoods as gangs set fire to homes belonging to their rivals. Newly formed self-defense militias began patrolling streets, armed with sticks, knives, machetes and, in some cases, guns.

Timorese and longtime foreign residents said the formation of these vigilante groups in the past two days had instilled a sense of terror among Dili residents unparalleled since the widespread militia killings in 1999 that followed East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia.

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