Two Stabbed to Death Outside East Timor Church

Two men were stabbed to death outside a church during evening prayers in East Timor's capital and four other people were injured in fighting between rival gangs, witnesses and a hospital official said Monday.

The unrest late Sunday was the most serious since the release of a U.N. report last week into violence that wracked the tiny nation earlier this year.

A special commission largely blamed the government of former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri for a wave of killings and arson in April and May that left 33 dead and forced 155,000 people into overcrowded displacement camps.

The report recommended that Alkatiri and his former ministers for defense and interior be investigated for allegedly being aware of, or involved in, the arming of civilians.

It was not clear what triggered Sunday's rampage, which comes as the country remains split along east and west lines, or those seen as having supported or opposed more than two decades of Indonesian occupation until 1999.

Stone throwing between rival groups of youths spread to the Aimutin Catholic Church where windows were smashed before the unidentified men were stabbed, witnesses said. Both died not far from the church, said Antonio Caleres, director of the Dili National Hospital.

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Four other people were injured, he said, including a Chinese citizen who was stabbed in the stomach.

Antonio Transfiguracao, head of the Salesian priests in East Timor, said the violence was particularly disturbing because it occurred "near the holy place when Mass was going on."

Meanwhile, Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, whose resistance to Indonesian rule in East Timor earned him the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, said he would try to help find a solution to the crisis.

International troops deployed in the former Portuguese colony several months ago and the installation of a new government have ended the worst of the violence. But tensions remain high and, as Sunday's clashes demonstrated, can quickly boil over.

"It's time to end the violence and crisis," Belo, now a missionary in Mozambique, told refugees while on a 10-day visit to his troubled homeland.

"It is very easy for us to kill our East Timorese brothers and sisters ... our culture is a culture of war and not a culture of peace."

The April-May unrest was triggered in part by Alkatari's dismissal of 600 soldiers -- or more than a third of the armed forces -- with rival security forces pitted against one another and later spilling into gang warfare.

Belo said he will hold talks with fugitive renegade military police commander Alfredo Rainado -- who escaped from prison in August with dozens of inmates -- and others representing the fired soldiers.

Ramos-Horta, speaking before boarding a flight to the Vatican, said he would ask Pope Benedict XVI to visit East Timor, claiming the pontiff's presence could help ease tensions. The pontiff is scheduled to attend World Youth Day in neighboring Australia in 2008.