By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – Foreign Affairs Minister David Andrews, who is due to travel to East Timor in his capacity as EU Presidency Personal Representative later this month, has expressed concern about an attack on an Irish journalist covering the lead-up to the region’s August self-determination
Sean Steele, 34, of Walkinstown, a freelance journalist accredited with the UN mission (UNAMET), narrowly escaped death when he was caught up an attack that left two students dead.
Steele said students had opened a center to raise awareness of the vote in the town of Viqueque on Timor’s south coast.
"A group of militiamen went into the center and wrecked it and when I arrived the next day it was learned that the militia were in the area and people gathered and ran towards them," he told RTE.
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Stones were thrown at the militia and when they retreated into an army post, soldiers came out and fired on the crowd.
"I jumped into a river to escape from the attack with some Timorese. It was pretty terrifying. There was no warning. The soldiers just came out of the base, pointed the guns at us and started shooting and everybody scattered and ran."
Steele said they then took shelter behind a cemetery with some students. An army truck arrived and they again fled but the soldiers opened fire for about 15 minutes and one man was killed. In another shooting incident a second man was shot dead after he tried to run away.
"People were terrorized. The UN civilian police came and did an investigation and did what they could but they are very restricted about what they can do," Steele said.
Andrews said it was essential for intimidation to end immediately if the forthcoming popular consultation in the territory is to be undertaken in a free and fair manner.