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Thousands Seek Refuge as Violence Continues in East Timor Capital

  • VOA News

Tens of thousands of people in East Timor's capital, Dili, are seeking refuge in churches, foreign embassies and the airport as militants wander the city, burning buildings and attacking residents.

In the past week, more than 27 people have been reported killed in clashes among factions of East Timor's security forces and vigilante gangs.

Some 13-hundred Australian peacekeeping troops in Dili have been unable to stop the fighting, sparking fears of civil war.

A VOA correspondent in Dili says smoke is rising from several parts of the city. Officials also have reported increasingly desperate conditions at makeshift camps for those fleeing the violence.

East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri says the escalating violence is part of a plot to overthrow the government.

U.N. officials say the unrest started last month when some 600 East Timor soldiers were dismissed from the military after they complained of discrimination.

Since their dismissal, officials say the dispute has drawn in other elements of the security forces.

People are reported to be divided between those from the east of the country and those from the west.

More international troops are expected in the coming days to try to stop the violence.

The United Nations has announced relocating some staff members and their families to Australia. China and the Philippines have also announced evacuations of their citizens.
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