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Timor: UNHCR staff injured

Briefing notes

Timor: UNHCR staff injured

7 September 1999

UNHCR's top Geneva-based official in charge of Asia, François Fouinat and another UNHCR staff were slightly injured Tuesday by an angry crowd of displaced people in an encampment housing thousands of East Timorese near Kupang, West Timor. The UNHCR staff were punched, kicked and had stones thrown at them by opponents of East Timor's independence who fled to West Timor in the wake of the independence referendum. The windows of their vehicle were smashed. A third UNHCR staff member also present on the scene was not hurt. The three UNHCR officials travelled to West Timor to look at the displacement situation there.

Meanwhile, in Dili in East Timor three other UNHCR staff members confined to the UN compound there are trying to organize food for an estimated 400 people who sought refuge in the compound, and another 1,000 crammed into a nearby school, after fleeing violent attacks by anti-independence militias.

An estimated 35,000 people were displaced in Dili, with tens of thousands more displaced in the interior of the island. 43,000 East Timorese have crossed to West Timor according to the local authorities there.

Local sources in Dili spoke of thousands of people being forcibly bussed by militias from the Dili Bishop's residence after militias overran the complex. UNHCR is extremely alarmed by the reports which could not be confirmed independently.