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East Timor

Thanks to David Bromage for his help with this page.

East Timor was a Portuguese territory in 1960, when the United Nations placed the colony on its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Portuguese government in 1974 began to establish a provisional government, and civil war broke out between the pro-independence and anti-independence factions. Portugal was unable to control the situation and withdrew then. Indonesia intervened militarily and claimed East Timor as its 27th province but the integration was never recognized by the UN.

The UN Secretary General began in 1982 to hold regular talks with Indonesia and Portugal to resolve this situation at the request of the UN General Assembly. In June 1998, Indonesia proposed autonomy for East Timor within Indonesia and the talks made rapid progress. A set of agreements was signed in New York on 5th May 1999. The Secretary General was entrusted with organizing a consultation with the East Timor people about autonomy within the Republic of Indonesia.

RAAF and RNZAF C-130s flew a total of 28 evacuation flights from Dili to Darwin on 16-17 Augist 1999, evacuating over 2500 UN staff and some refugees.

The United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was established on 11th June 1999 to carry out the consultation. UNAMET registered over four hundred and fifty one thousand voters despite poor roads, bad terrain and high tensions in the area. On 30th August 1999 ninety-eight percent of the registered voters voted to reject the autonomy and begin the move towards independence.

The announcement of the result saw the pro-integration militias, sometimes supported by Indonesian security forces, begin a campaign of violence throughout East Timor. The Indonesian government did not effectively respond and many East Timorese were killed and more were displaced from their homes. About 250,000 East Timorese left the country, and in some cases they were forced out of the country. Indonesia recognized the result of the vote on 19th October 1999.

A Security Council Mission visited Jakarta and Dili to resolve the situation and concluded its visit to Jakarta on 12th September 1999. Indonesia accepted the offer of assistance and INTERFET was authorized under the command of Australia, which was tasked to protect and support UNAMET, restore peace and security in East Timor and to enable humanitarian assistance.

The UN engaged in large-scale airdrops of goods and aid and relief workers were deployed as INTERFET restored order. The displaced East Timorese were voluntarily repatriated from West Timor and other nearby areas.

Indonesian armed forces, police and administrative officials had all left the territory following the outbreak of violence and the UN took over administrative works.


UNTAET was established in 1999 following the result of the vote and on 28th February 2000, INTERFET handed over command of military operations to UNTAET. UNTAET was established with a mandate to provide security, maintain law and order, to establish administration, develop civil and social services, coordinate humanitarian assistance, support self-government and to establish conditions for sustainable development. UNTAET had a maximum military strength of 8,950 troops and 200 military observers, and a civilian police component of 1,640.


On Sunday 19th September 1999, the vanguard of INTERFET (International Force for East Timor), including British Ghurkhas from Brunei, arrived in East Timor to begin peacekeeping operations in the violence-torn province of Indonesia that voted for independence in a referendum on 30th August. HMS Glasgow formed part of the nine-warship vanguard for the INTERFET

A party of Royal Marine SBS troops led the Interfet landings in East Timor.

On 30th September 1999, HMS Glasgow left Dili, East Timor where she was stationed as part of the Australian led INTERFET mission. The Naval component of INTERNET guarded the amphibious supply ships carrying men and equipment to East Timor. Some of the 280 men and woman onboard went ashore to render medical assistance and help restore electrical power and repair the infrastructure in East Timor.

A Gurkha patrol at Com fired the first shots of the operation on 1 October 1999 while attempting to free 2000 refugees held by militia at Com. They had been herded at gunpoint onto the docks. The militia fled into the jungle after the Gurkhas opened fire. The local priest later said the Gurkhas had averted a massacre.

Contributors to the Interfet mission;

Major-General Cosgrove (Australia)
Major General Jaime de Los Santos (Philippines) from February 2001.


Thanks to Mike Smith for his contribution to the New Zealand listng of units participating in the list below.




50 troops.


B Squadron, the 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment
Air support included, RAAF FA18, F111, FA18, PC9 and P3s.
2 x B707 of 33 Squadron
9 x C-130 of 36 and 37 Squadrons
15 x S-70A of 1st and 5th Aviation Regiments
Bell 206B-1s of 161(R) Squadron
UH-1Hs of 171(GS) Squadron
161 Recce Sqn
No 2 Airfield Defence Squadron (2AFDS) RAAF
3rd Australian Brigade
5th/7th RAR
Force Prep Unit
17 Const Sqn
21 Const Sqn
19 CE Works
Emergency Response Sqn
elements of Land Command Engineers
HMAS Adelaide
HMAS Anzac (Frigate)
HMAS Balikpapan (Heavy Landing Craft)
HMAS Brunei (landing craft)
HMAS Darwin
HMAS Farncomb (submarine, landed frogmen at Suai)
HMAS Jervis Bay (Catamaran)
HMAS Labuan
HMAS Success
HMAS Sydney
HMAS Tarakan
HMAS Tobruk (Heavy Lift)
HMAS Waller (submarine, escorted fleet through Timor Sea to Dili)
HMAS Westralia


30 to 50 military police.


600 military personnel on a a six-month tour.
250 sailors from HMCS PROTECTEUR Naval replenishment ship
250-strong light infantry company group largely from the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22ième Régiment
Approximately 100 air force personnel with two CC-130 Hercules transport aircraft from 8 Wing Trenton.






191 troops attached to New Zealand units


500 troops and a frigate to the region, also one field surgery, including 12 surgeons and two doctors.
3 x C-130
4 x Puma
FNS Vendemiaire (frigate), later relieved by FNS Prairial (frigate)
FNS Siroco (Dock landing Ship)
French Marines.


Medical unit (100 troops)


ARW detachment numbering 30 personnel, known as the No. 1 Irish Contingent.
The Irish Component Headquarters will be supported by the National Support Element, (NSE).


600 military personnel, including tactical group of 200 paratroops, transport aircraft and amphibious naval unit on a vessel with hospital facilities, on-board helicopters and transport aircraft


Over 700 Jordanian troops arrived during Interfet and replaced Australian troops in the Oecussi enclave of East Timor in February 2000.


1 Army Company
Medical unit (100 troops)


Malaysia has said it will send a team of military officers to join the multinational force, after earlier refusing because of Australia's leading role.




158 troops attached to NZ units at Suai, At least three troops killed.

New Zealand

5 Iroqois helicopters of No.3 squadron at Suai, East Timor.
Hercules and Boeing transport aircraft of No.40 Squadron provide regular re-supply flights to and from East Timor.
2 x C-130
RNZAF chartered a 747 in Sept '99.
3200 NZ military personnel served in ET divided into 6 Battalion Groups, with only one serving at a time, and rotating at 6 month intervals. (The force being made up from both the Regular and Territorial Forces of all service arms)
The NZSAS were also used in Timor.
NZ Supplied 19 Customs Officers for border control service in Timor.
NZ supplied over 45 Police and Prison Officers for service in Timor.
There were at least 12 Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries (MAF) staff seconded for quarantine duties in Timor.
A private Airline (Vincent Airline) supplied one aircraft and 6 crew for the transporting of military personnel between Timor and Darwin, Australia.
NZ supplied the following military ships -
   HMNZS Canterbury (Approx 250 crew).
   HMNZS Te Kaha (Approx 170 crew).
   HMNZS Endeavour (Approx 35 crew).
MV Edisongracht chartered by NZ to carry freight and equipment.
MV Edamgracht chartered by NZ to carry freight and equipment.
4 NZ peacekeepers lost their lives as a result of their service in Timor.


Five officers.


1,200 army engineers, medical and other support troops to the multinational peacekeeping force.
2 x C-130
Elements of Scout Ranger Regiment

Republic of Korea

400-stong infantry battalion to East Timor in what would be the first ever deployment of South Korean combat troops for peacekeeping operations abroad.


Medical detachment
1 x C-130
RSS Excellence (LST)
RSS Perseverance (LST)
RSS Intrepid (LST)


Civilian police officers and $1.2m in aid.


Ultimately to deploy more than 1,000 personnel, including combat troops, engineers, medics and technicians. Thai Major-General Songkitti Chakkrabhat is the mission's deputy commander.

United Kingdom

2 x C-130
1 x VC-10
HMS Glasgow
270 Gurkhas from 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles
Party of SBS troops.

United States

200 military personnel, half of whom will serve on the ground in East Timor, and support from Pacific Fleet. The US also transported troops from other nations and helped with logistics, communications and intelligence. 
US Army assests deployed with marines, US army personnel on the ground, some attached to US Marine units.
1 x EP-3C based at RAAF Tindal
Members of the US Marines
US Marine Sea Stallion Helicopters
USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3)
USNS Kilauea (T-AE 26) ammunition ship.
USS Mobile Bay (Cruiser)
USS Pelelieu
USS San Jose

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