DILI, East Timor (AP) -- Multinational troops searched

house-to-house for suspected militiamen in East Timor's pillaged

capital Friday, as new reports emerged that entire towns in the

hinterland have been emptied of people and torched.

"We should be celebrating the birth of an independent nation,

but instead we are witnessing a baptism in blood," Amnesty

International said in a report on East Timor. The human rights

organization said tens of thousands of people were forcibly

deported from East Timor by the Indonesian army.

In the capital Dili, about 1,000 multinational combat troops,

backed by armored personnel carriers and two Blackhawk helicopters,

sealed off several city blocks Friday in a huge display of force.

Lt. Col. Nick Welsh, the Australian officer commanding the

operation, said several "hard-core militia" members were detained

and some weapons seized, but gave no details. Earlier, the

peacekeepers announced they had arrested a leader of an

anti-independence militia suspected of committing atrocities in the

aftermath of East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence on

Aug. 30.

"You can't run, you can't hide, justice is here," said Maj.

Chip Henriss-Anderssen, a force spokesman.

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of people were killed when the

militias went on a rampage following the U.N.-sponsored referendum.

Multinational peacekeepers were sent to the former Portuguese

colony, which Indonesia invaded in 1975, to stop the violence.

Troops continued to pour into Dili on Friday, the latest

arrivals coming from the Philippines and Canada, raising the number

well beyond 3,000. More than 7,500 are expected.

But while peacekeepers worked to secure the capital, a food

shipment to a refugee camp outside Dili was canceled because there

were not enough troops available to protect it. Indonesian troops

on Thursday stole two of four trucks carrying aid to the camp near

the village of Dare, a World Food Program spokesman said Friday.

Some women and children who met a different U.N. convoy were

gaunt, showing signs of malnutrition. Many have been eating leaves

and roots. Diarrhea and respiratory ailments are common.

To avoid future hijackings, the agency will airdrop food for at

least the next two weeks, Christiane Berthiaume, a WFP spokeswoman,

said in Geneva.

The commander of Indonesian forces in East Timor said Friday he

will formally hand over responsibility for the territory on Monday.

"I can't fully control all the situation here," Maj. Gen. K.

Syahnakri said. Asked if he would stop his troops from destroying

telephone lines and power stations, Syahnakri said: "As much as I

am in control, I guarantee infrastructure will not be destroyed."

In Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Commission met in a special

session to discuss sending a fact-finding mission to East Timor,

which could lead to war crimes trials. But Indonesia, supported by

other Asian countries, opposed an international probe and said it

should be left to Jakarta to conduct an inquiry. The commission

will meet again Monday.

In a rare independent confirmation of refugee accounts of forced

deportations, a U.N. aerial survey of the western side of East

Timor on Thursday found "very few people living there," said

David Wimhurst, a U.N. spokesman in Darwin, Australia. The towns of

Maliana, Suai and Ainaro have been "totally burnt," with houses

in Ainaro still smoking, he said.

Independence activists in Darwin said forced deportations were

part of a deliberate policy to replace the population with people

who want the territory to remain part of Indonesia.

Amnesty International, in a report released Friday, reached the

same conclusion. The group said the army is also burning houses and

barracks during its retreat to punish East Timorese for choosing


On Friday, the white colonial residence of the governor, one of

Dili's most imposing buildings, went up in flames. It was one of

the few remaining structures left intact in a city that once had

120,000 residents.

Despite the destruction, dozens of people celebrated the

departure of Indonesian forces Friday when they abandoned one of

their largest remaining barracks in Dili and boarded a naval


"We are so happy they are going because they have killed so

many of our people for so many years," said Alfredo Soares.