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Two local U.N. staffers were killed today in East Timor, despite pleas by U.N. officials to Indonesian security forces for better protection for them and the local population.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, spokesman Fred Eckhard said the two staff members were killed in Maliana, which has been the scene of recent violence by militias opposed to independence for East Timor.

The killings came one day after fighting between pro- and anti-independence supporters killed at least three people near the U.N. compound in Dili, including one man who was hacked to death by militiamen armed with machetes, U.N. officials and witnesses said.

Meanwhile, officials at the compound continued counting ballots from Monday's historic referendum. The U.N.-sponsored vote asked the mostly Catholic East Timorese whether they wanted to become independent or remain part of mostly Muslim Indonesia as an autonomous region.

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