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 Arson attack on East Timor election office

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Arson attack on East Timor election office

Karlis Salna, AAP South-East Asia Correspondent
February 23, 2012

Police in East Timor are on high alert after two offices connected to the administration of upcoming elections were hit with firebombs.

The attack, at about 3am (5am AEDT) on Monday in the capital Dili, comes just weeks out from presidential elections which will be held on March 17.

A number of bombs were thrown at the National Commission for Elections building and office of the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration. A United Nations vehicle was also damaged in the attack.

East Timor National Police Commander-General Longuinhos Monteiro said security had been ramped up in the capital as a precaution against any actions designed to impede the activities of the general election.

"An order has been issued by the command that if there are any other similar attempts from today onwards, the police are to use firearms and any other means, to carry out the very big responsibility it has before the constitution of strengthening the democratic process during the elections," Cmdr-Gen Monteiro said.

East Timor was racked by political violence at the last elections in 2006, leading to the deployment of international forces including about 400 Australian troops.

Along with a contingent of just under 1000 United Nations security personnel, they are scheduled to withdraw following parliamentary elections which will be held in June.

While there are fears about the possibility of violence around both elections, both East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao maintain that the troops should leave at the end of 2012.

Cmdr-Gen Monteiro said a number of people had been arrested following Monday's attacks but they were later released due to a lack of evidence.

Police have now been stationed at the two offices that were hit by the firebombs.

The presidential election on March 17 is shaping as a re-run of the last poll five years ago which saw Dr Ramos-Horta defeat Fretilin's Francisco Guterres in a second round run-off.

East Timor also faced the possibility of sliding into civil war just a few years ago following an assassination attempt on Dr Ramos-Horta in 2008.

© 2012 AAP
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