Gangs of youths allied to warring factions of East Timor’s security forces have gone on the rampage in parts of the capital, Dili, torching houses and vehicles.
Residents say the rebellion has turned into a protest against the government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who they say has failed to deliver any economic or social development since Timor became an independent state in 2002.
The police force has effectively disintegrated, further complicating the situation.
With more Australian and Malaysian peacekeeping troops arriving, Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, is confident that calm will be quickly restored.
“I believe the situation will be under control within two or three days and these individuals with weapons will be arrested,” he said.
The unrest began in March, when half the army went on strike for better working conditions. They were subsequently sacked.
The fighting has left at least 20 people dead in the past week and forced thousands of people to seek shelter.