Subject: Rtrs: E. Timor Nobel laureate insists over 50 dead in clashes
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 15:29:01 GMT
From: hops <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Monday, November 23, 1998
E. Timor Nobel laureate insists over 50 dead in clashes
LISBON, Portugal (Reuters) -- The office of Nobel Peace Laureate Jose Ramos- Horta insisted on Monday that over 50 people had died in recent days in a military crackdown in Indonesia-occupied East Timor.
Jakarta has denied reports by a former governor of the territory, invaded by Indonesia in 1975, that 44 people had been killed in military operations around the village of Alas, some 200 km (125 miles) east of the capital, Dili.
``We have confirmed it with religious sources in East Timor,'' a spokeswoman for Ramos-Horta told Reuters in Lisbon. ``At least 50 people are dead,'' she said. Former East Timor governor Mario Carrascalao, a political advisor to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, said on Sunday 44 people had been killed and 40 others injured when the military raided the district, apparently searching for guerrillas.
A small guerrilla band, numbering some 200 according to the Indonesian authorities, have continued to harrass Indonesian forces since Jakarta formally announced the annexation of the former Portuguese Pacific colony in 1976.
``It is not true that 44 people died,'' Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gafar Fadyl told Reuters in Jakarta. ``We have checked our data. We found that names and other details are inaccurate,'' he added earlier on Monday without giving details.
The Portuguese government suspended United Nations-brokered talks with Jakarta on East Timor on Friday when allegations of violence first emerged.
Prime Minister Antonio Guterres declined to comment further on Monday, saying that he was waiting to hear from the International Red Cross about the situation in the mainly Roman Catholic territory.
``Nevertheless, we are aware that something serious has happened,'' he told journalists in Geneva, where he was attending a meeting of the Socialist International.
Red Cross officials have not yet been able to reach Alas, a village of some 500 people. Timorese resistance officials say it is still cut off from the rest of East Timor by the military.
According to religious sources quoted by Portuguese media, Indonesian troops raided Alas after a group of guerrillas attacked a military post, killing three soldiers and escaping with weapons.
``We do not know how it started. All we know is that the Indonesians killed the people,'' Ramos-Horta's spokeswoman said.
If confirmed, the violence would be the worst single incident since 1991 when some 200 people were killed in demonstrations in Dili.
The killings spurred the United Nations, which has never recognised the Indonesian annexation, into pressing for a diplomatic solution to the future of East Timor.
Indonesia, in the grip of social and political turmoil, has proposed a degree of autonomy for the territory, but it firmly rejects independence.
Portugal backs the Timorese resistance's demand that the people be consulted, preferably through a referendum, before any decision is taken on their future status.
Ramos-Horta was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 jointly with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dili, Carlos Belo, for their efforts to bring peace to the troubled territory.
TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 8 Hop Gardens London WC2N 4EH Tel: 171 497 5355 Fax: 171 4975313 Email: email@example.com Defending the rights of the victims of oppression in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh, 1973-1998