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Subject: AFP: Reports of ETimor violence spark protests
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 15:54:50 +1200
From: sonny inbaraj <ausasia@ozemail.com.au> Organization: The AustralAsian

Reports of East Timor violence spark protests, calls for restraint

JAKARTA, Nov 24 (AFP) - Thousands of students protested for a second day outside the parliament in the East Timor capital of Dili Tuesday as the United States called for restraint following reports of renewed violence in the troubled territory.

University and high school students as well as youths were protesting alleged military violence and calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian soldiers from East Timor under international monitoring, residents said.

Scores of civilians were rumoured to have been massacred in East Timor after the Indonesian military launched a hunt for rebels who attacked an army post on November 9.

Large numbers of civilians took refuge in churches and fled villages during a military sweep, the unconfirmed reports said.

"We are disturbed at reports of renewed violence in East Timor," US State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington Monday.

"We call on all sides to refrain from violence and to take all measures necessary to assure that civilians are not mistreated or denied access to necessities."

The Indonesian military said three soldiers were killed in the attack on the Alas military outpost and 13 were taken hostage although only two remained in the hands of their captors.

Last week, the army announced that it had ended an operation in the Alas area, 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Dili, after the attack on the outpost.

But Rubin said Washington had been unable to confirm that the military operation had been halted.

His comments came as the International Committee of the Red Crosssaid it was sending a delegation to the Alas region to check the persistent rumors.

During a trip to Alas last week, the ICRC had been unable to prove the rumours of atrocities which began circulating at the end of the previous week, Toni Pfanner, the ICRC head in Jakarta and regional delegate for Southeast Asia, told AFP here Monday.

But Pfanner said that following the attack on the military post more than 140 people, mostly women and children, had taken refuge in a neighbourhood church.

The head of the East Timor police, Colonel Timbul Silaen was quoted by the Media Indonesia daily Tuesday as saying some people had provoked villagers to flee the advance of the troops hunting for rebels, but he gave no details.

The New York-based organization Human Rights Watch Monday urged all parties to the conflict in East Timor to halt human rights abuses, citing abuses on both sides.

The nonprofit East Timor Action Network, condemning the violence by the Indonesian military, estimated the number of civilian deaths from November 9 to November 19 at up to 50 people.

The rumors, supported by a letter from Dili Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, caused a suspension in UN-held meetings on the future of the former Portuguese colony between Jakarta and Lisbon now under way in New York.

A new meeting has, however, been announced for Tuesday in the presence of the UN secretary general's special representative for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker.

The meeting will decide on an eventual resumption of negotiations once the situation in the Alas region has been clarified.

A former Portuguese territory, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed the following year in a move never recognized by the United Nations.

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