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More violence erupts in East Timor
The Associated Press
DILI, East Timor — Gangs of young men hurled rocks at a camp housing refugees and torched buildings in East Timor's capital Wednesday, as fresh violence broke out between supporters and opponents of the recently ousted prime minister.
Australian peacekeepers forced 100 youths away from the camp, which houses hundreds of people who fled clashes last month. The attackers claimed armed supporters of ousted Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri were inside.
Sporadic gun shots rang out, and 20 houses and a half-dozen shops were torched elsewhere, sending black clouds of smoke rising over the capital, Dili.
Alkatiri appeared on national television Tuesday — one day after he resigned under pressure from street protesters and President Xanana Gusmão — urging 2,000 supporters gathered on Dili's outskirts to descend on the city in coming days.
The former premier has been summoned for questioning on allegations that he formed political hit squads, accusations he denies. He accused his opponents of being behind two months of unrest that left at least 30 people dead and sent nearly 150,000 people fleeing their homes.
Alkatiri's opponents say he provoked the violence by firing 600 disgruntled soldiers in March. Clashes between the dissident and loyalist soldiers gave way to broader street violence — the worst unrest since East Timor's bloody break from Indonesia in 1999.
Many of the street fighters Wednesday said they either came from the east — Alkatiri's power base — or the west, a stronghold of Gusmão and home to many of the fired soldiers.
Some young men were simply taking advantage of the chaos to settle old scores or vent frustration with the leaders of East Timor, which remains Asia's poorest nation despite large petroleum reserves.
Members of a 2,700 peacekeeping mission responded quickly to the flare-ups. Australian and Portuguese police rushed to the scene of blazes and clashes, and helicopters patrolled overhead as sirens blared.
Gusmão, who enjoys wide popular support for leading the country's armed struggle against 24 years of Indonesian rule, said Tuesday he would take "immediate steps toward forming a new government." Another option, he said, was dissolving parliament and holding early elections.
José Ramos Horta, the Nobel peace prize-winning foreign minister, is one of several possible candidates for prime minister.
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