International peacekeepers exchanged gunfire today with a contingent of armed men in a town that straddles the border between East Timor and Indonesian-controlled western Timor.
A senior Australian army officer said two militia members may have been wounded. But an Indonesian security official accused peacekeepers of killing an Indonesian policeman and wounding two others.
If Indonesian police were involved, it would be the first direct clash between international troops and Indonesian forces since the deployment of foreign peacekeepers in East Timor on Sept. 20.
Both sides said the shooting started when an Australian patrol approached the village of Motaain. An Indonesian police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said patrolling policemen fired warning shots to indicate that the peacekeepers had wrongly crossed over to the western side of the island. He said one policeman was killed and two others wounded.
Col. Mark Kelly, chief of staff of the peacekeeping force, said two militia members may have been hit.
Reporters who accompanied the Australian convoy said the peacekeepers and Indonesian officers later compared maps. The Indonesians' map, based on a chart dating back to Dutch colonial times, showed Motaain in western Timor. A newer Indonesian-drawn map used by the Australians placed the town in East Timor.
CAPTION: Australian peacekeeping soldiers take up positions in Motaain, near East Timor's border.