A state of martial law in East Timor and the arrival today of thousands of new combat troops from elsewhere in Indonesia failed to quell violence by renegade Indonesian soldiers and armed militiamen, who looted shops, set fires and emptied Dili, the capital, of thousands of people.
The continuing tumult appeared to set Indonesia on a collision course with Australia, the United States and a number of other U.N. members, who are making plans for possible military intervention to halt the bloodshed.
At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan said "the international community will have to consider what other measures it can take" if Indonesia fails to bring the situation under control within 48 hours.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, speaking on a visit to Vietnam, said she told the Indonesians that "they did not have much time" to restablish order, "otherwise it was essential for them to invite the international community" to do so. Indonesia, however, has made no move to request outside intervention.
Ian Martin, head of the U.N. mission in East Timor, described the situation in Dili today as "really complete anarchy," despite pledges by the Indonesian armed forces commander in Jakarta, Gen. Wiranto, to restore security to the violence-wracked territory. U.N. officials have estimated that as many as a quarter of East Timor's 800,000 people may have fled their homes, and the situation led many to suggest that the military's command-and-control structure has now collapsed.
"The militia seems to be moving around unchecked," Martin said in a telephone interview tonight from the besieged U.N. compound. "There's been extensive looting. The radio station was burned. A gas station went up [in flames]. . . . We haven't seen any impact whatsoever" from the martial law declaration.
With 1,500 East Timorese refugees crowded onto the grounds, the compound is starting to run low on food and supplies, he said. Three babies have already been born there.
Many buildings, including Dili's university, were ablaze tonight, the city's downtown was stripped and looted, and telephone, water and electrical service were shut down. In a telling sign of the extent of the chaos, armed militiamen were riding around otherwise deserted streets in marked U.N. vehicles they had stolen from a transportation depot.
One slight improvement, Martin said, was that a new unit of Indonesian soldiers from the elite Kostrad unit had joined other police and soldiers guarding the U.N. compound from direct attack. With thousands of locally recruited Indonesian soldiers and police officers in effective mutiny and joining the militias in their rampage, Wiranto appears to be relying on new battalions from the island of Java to try to end what many now believe is a locally directed uprising against East Timor's Aug. 30 vote to reject autonomy within Indonesia.
The Indonesian government had said a vote against autonomy would begin a process that would lead to independence for East Timor, once it was ratified by a legislative assembly later this year. But some authorities, including the military, have decided to use violence to prevent that from happening. A 9 p.m. curfew was in effect in the territory, and soldiers were given orders to shoot violators on sight.
With little sign that the violence was ebbing, world leaders were readying plans for an intervention force for East Timor, warning Indonesian officials to contain the violence or let foreign peacekeepers do the job for them. "The Indonesian military has to bring those militias under control, and they have to bring them under control within a matter of hours, not in a matter of days," said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Australia, which is set to lead an international force that would have U.N. ratification but not U.N. supervision, has offered 2,000 troops and has already positioned a catamaran carrying 500 troops close to East Timor's shores. Canada, New Zealand and Malaysia also are likely to be involved, diplomats here said. A U.N. team was due to arrive soon in Indonesia to assess the situation in East Timor.
Gen. Wiranto has so far ruled out the need for foreign peacekeepers, saying, "We have all the capacity to handle the situation."
Despite the tough talk of intervention and deadlines, other countries are extremely reluctant to get involved in East Timor without the consent of the government in Jakarta -- and they are uncertain what to do if that approval is not granted. Landing in East Timor without the government's agreement would be tantamount to an invasion, and Indonesia, the world's fourth-most-populous country, maintains formidable armed forces, numbering some 400,000 troops and national police.
Also, while East Timor's plight has raised moral outrage around the world, most countries are also conscious that the tiny territory, strategically unimportant and with just 800,000 people, matters far less than giant Indonesia, with 210 million people.
The dilemma also makes countries reluctant to use the powerful economic lever of withholding aid and loans to Indonesia until conditions improve in East Timor. As one diplomat said, "Are we going to hold up aid to 210 million people for the sake of 800,000?"
In East Timor, meanwhile, concern was growing for the fate of thousands of displaced people who have been seen being herded onto military trucks and driven to an unknown fate. Some reports said the refugees were being trucked across the border into West Timor, in Indonesia proper, as part of a massive deportation that could be the prelude to a move to partition the Connecticut-sized territory. Dili was said to be almost empty now.
"They are loading pro-independence IDPs [internally displaced persons] into trucks, onto ships and moving them off to the west," said Martin, the U.N. official. "It's not easy to deduce what is the motive for that."
There was also a militia attack in central East Timor, in Baukau, where the only U.N. redoubt outside the capital came under sustained gunfire. Its personnel had to be evacuated on an Australian military plane. There were reports that militiamen in Baukau today refused to allow more than 100 East Timorese who had been working for the United Nations to join the evacuation, and there was no word on their fate.
One who did escape was Dili's Roman Catholic archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Carlos Belo, who was smuggled out to Darwin, Australia, on an Australian transport plane. Belo's house in Dili was burned down by the militiamen Monday, and 6,000 refugees who had taken shelter on the grounds of his compound were last seen being taken away in trucks.
Xanana Gusmao, the East Timorese independence leader, was released from jail this morning and told reporters that the violence had left the territory largely deserted. "There is no more population anymore in East Timor," Gusmao said. "The population has been driven to Kupang and Alor" in West Timor.
There were more signs today that the East Timor crisis is beginning to take a domestic toll on Indonesia. Its currency, the rupiah, has plummeted since the East Timor referendum results were announced and the violence spiraled. And most political analysts believe that President B.J. Habibie, who is seeking a new term as president, has been mortally wounded by his decision to hold the referendum and allow a part of the country to break away.
Special correspondent Atika Shubert in Jakarta contributed to this report.