Cmdr. Lucas Martin from the Blood of Integration militia led a tour of the sprawling Tenuboot refugee camp in western Timor with an M-16 rifle donated by the Indonesian military slung across his back.
Martin said that in a few hours he would lead a foray over the border into East Timor, hoping to gather extra food and weapons in preparation for cross-border attacks against the Australian-led, U.N.-backed peacekeepers who are trying to restore order in the battered territory.
In the event of encountering a foreign patrol, Martin said: "We kill our enemies. We are warriors, too."
Just as the peacekeepers push into East Timor's unstable western border area, pro-Indonesia militias and sympathetic Indonesian military units are preparing to launch guerrilla actions from bases in western Timor's crowded refugee camps, according to militia officers and human rights workers.
The militias and the military vehemently opposed East Timor's Aug. 30 vote for independence. After results were announced, they unleashed a campaign of violence that ravaged much of the territory until the peacekeepers arrived nearly two weeks ago.
"We have no official plans to engage [the peacekeepers] yet, but we are ready and we have support," Martin said. "We are on the border waiting for orders from our leaders. . . . They want a war and that's what they'll get."
Nearly 200,000 East Timorese have fled their homeland to the marginal safety of western Timor since the referendum results were announced Sept. 4. Western Timor, a longstanding part of Indonesia, adjoins East Timor, a former Portuguese colony that Indonesia invaded in 1975 and annexed a year later.
Human rights groups say these camps are more militia training grounds than safe havens.
"The militias are all over west Timor holding some 200,000 people hostage," said one foreign relief worker. "They are recruiting from the camps, asking everyone to make a choice between integration [with Indonesia] and independence. Asking that question means asking if they want to live or die."
Tenuboot is one of about three dozen camps spread across the winding border between East Timor and western Timor.
A motley crew of militia members and Indonesian military guard Tenuboot, prompting refugees to fly Indonesian flags in front of their tarpaulin shelters.
Residents spend sleepless nights listening to soldiers vent their anger by firing their automatic weapons.
Militia members hiss at foreigners and threaten to "slit the throats" of independence supporters. During a visit by the U.N. refugee agency last month, militiamen stoned foreign observers and threatened to kill any other "white faces" that entered the camps.
Indonesia has prepared hundreds of shelters and is providing food and water to at least 60 percent of the refugees. The International Committee of the Red Cross, with the permission of local military commanders, is providing non-food items and medical care.
Crowded conditions in the refugee camps breed disease, however, and sanitation is poor.
Martin arrived at the center of Tenuboot camp where there is a cemetery carpeted in bougainvillea. At least three babies have died here since the exodus and small wooden crosses mark their graves.
Most of the refugees were trucked in by military and police convoys, though the military denies forcing anyone to leave East Timor.
Others were simply taken. One refugee, who declined to give his name, sought safety with Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Bishop Carlos Belo. He was separated from his parents and siblings when militiamen attacked the prelate's home in Dili, the capital.
He said militiamen pushed him onto a waiting military truck with hundreds of other refugees and left them at the border.
"I heard [my family is] still alive, trying to get a car to take them here. But they don't have the money," he said.
Safety is only guaranteed to pro-integration supporters. Officials said that suspected independence supporters have been weeded out in nighttime abductions, including two recent kidnappings of local Red Cross staff members.
The Red Cross knows the fate of only 11 of 70 local staff members working in East Timor before the crisis.
Militia leaders such as Eurico Guterres, commander of the feared Aitarak "Thorn" militia, stop by frequently, checking on camp conditions and recruiting members.
Marcus is a recent recruit; his wife and three children are staying at nearby Haliwen camp. He spends about half of his time training with Guterres' deputies.
"We are ready to die for integration because we know we have Indonesia's support. We can fight for a long time from these hills," he said.