Subject: 8 suspects in death of Kiwi soldier

The Australian 27 July 2000

8 suspects in death of Kiwi soldier

By Jakarta correspondent DON GREENLEES and PETER ALFORD in Bangkok

PEACEKEEPING commanders in East Timor have identified eight militiamen they suspect are behind recent raids on peacekeeping posts near the West Timor border, including Monday's killing and mutilation of a New Zealand soldier.

At a meeting of Indonesian and UN border commanders yesterday, Brigadier Duncan Lewis, the Australian commander of the border peacekeeping forces, handed a list of the militiamen to his counterpart.

The militia group believed by peacekeepers to be responsible for the shooting of New Zealand Private Leonard William Manning, 24, in an ambush, is known as Laksaur and was previously based in the East Timor district of Covalima.

Both Australia and New Zealand are renewing pressure on Indonesia to empty the West Timor refugee camps, which New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff warned could become "another Gaza Strip" producing alienated youngsters as "fodder for future militia activity".

Brigadier Lewis told The Australian he was reasonably confident a Laksaur commander Jacobus Bere was behind recent militia raids across the border.

The Bali-based regional commander of Indonesian forces Major-General Kiki Syahnakri said the killers of Private Manning were almost certainly militia operating from West Timor, contradicting a statement by the Indonesian commander of the taskforce for border control that the attackers were "extremists" from the East Timor side.

Another junior commander blamed Falantil guerillas.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said reactionary elements of the Indonesian military (TNI) were encouraging militia activity to undermine President Wahid, given the long history between the militia and the military.

Mr Goff and Mr Downer will press the militia issue with Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shahib at today's ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok and in private meetings.

They believe the West Timor camps give the militia cover for border-raiding activities and want the Wahid Government to honour promises to empty them and bring the militia under control.

They want those among the 120,000 refugees who choose to stay in the Indonesian territory given permanent shelter and the rest freed from militia bullying to go home.

The shooting of Private Manning was the latest in a string of attacks on the Australian and New Zealand battalions guarding the border, with hand grenades thrown at Australian posts on May 28 and June 21.

Brigadier Lewis also warned the attacks would continue until refugee camps were cleared.

He said a "deliberate and orchestrated misinformation campaign" was partly responsible for 60,000 East Timorese remaining in West Timor camps almost a year after independence.

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