|East Timor Tightens Security After Terror Warning
By Tim Johnston
11 May 2005
In East Timor, the government has tightened security around the main government buildings after Australia warned there was a threat of a terrorist attack. East Timor gained independence from Indonesia - which has the world's largest Muslim population - six years ago, and Islamic extremists accuse the West of supporting the move because they want to break up Indonesia.
Police and the military were checking all cars and visitors to the main government compound in the East Timor capital Dili Wednesday after Australia warned it could be the target of a terrorist attack.
A sweep of the compound, which houses the prime minister's office as well as other branches of government, found no explosives Wednesday morning.
The East Timor foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta, told VOA Wednesday that the Australian authorities had not passed on any specific information about the nature of the threat or where they had obtained it.
Mr. Ramos Horta says Australia and the United States have warned before about attacks by militants affiliated to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
"It seems that obviously in the past in more than one statement by Osama bin Laden he made reference to East Timor, connecting East Timor with an international conspiracy led by U.S., Australia, the United Nations to separate East Timor from Islamic Indonesia, so there were specific references by Osama bin Laden to East Timor but that was more in the context of targeting Western interests or United Nations interests in East Timor and not East Timor as such," said Jose Ramos Horta.
After almost 25 years of occupation, East Timor became independent from Indonesia after a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999. Elements in the Indonesian security forces fought hard to prevent the split, mounting a murderous campaign of intimidation against the voters.
But almost 80 percent of East Timorese voted for independence, a slight that still rankles with many Indonesians.
Islamic militants have mounted a number of attacks on Western targets in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing, which killed over 200 people, and last year's car bomb attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, which killed 12.