Subject: New Zealand soldier found mutilated in East Timor

New Zealand soldier found mutilated in East Timor

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, July 28 (Reuters) - The New Zealand peacekeeper killed in East Timor this week was mutilated by pro-Indonesian gunmen, possibly so they could collect payments for his death, U.N. and New Zealand officials said on Friday.

Fred Eckhard, the chief U.N. spokesman, said the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), ``has acknowledged that there were some signs of mutilation on the body of this New Zealand soldier who was killed.''

Other U.N. sources said his ears had been cut off, possibly as a trophy in order to collect a bounty from wealthy East Timor exiles who had ordered gangs to target U.N. troops as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.

Eckhard said he had no proof of the bounty.

The soldier, Leonard William Manning, 24, a private of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, was on a patrol tracking militia in the rugged Suai border area on Monday when gunmen crossing over from West Timor shot him.

During a Friday Security Council debate on East Timor, New Zealand's U.N. ambassador, Michael John Powles, announced that Manning's body ``was found to have been mutilated'' when it was recovered hours after he was killed, the first U.N. soldier to die in combat in East Timor.

The peacekeepers also uncovered two camps near the site where Manning was murdered, Eckhard said. In the camps, they found a military-style backpack, one uniform and shirts with Indonesian army markings and patches from Kopassus, the Indonesian special forces.

However, Eckhard said the United Nations was not drawing any conclusions or ``saying the uniforms are proof of a link between the militia and the Indonesian military.''

``But at the same time they want to underline that they hold the Indonesia military responsible for the behaviour of the militia on Indonesian soil'' in West Timor, Eckhard said.

The militia, organised by the army, last September went on the rampage in East Timor after the half-island's residents voted overwhelmingly for independence from Jakarta after a quarter-century of Indonesian rule.

They were stopped by Australian troops and escaped to West Timor, forcing tens of thousands of East Timorese to flee with them. Some 167,000 have returned to East Timor, now administered by the United Nations until independence.

But up to 120,000 refugees, many forced over the border by militia nearly a year ago, remain in squalid refugee camps in East Timor controlled by the militia.

During the Security Council debate on East Timor, Nancy Soderberg, a U.S. ambassador, said the death of the New Zealander was a result of Indonesia abrogating its responsibilities.

``For months the council has called on the Government of Indonesia to end cross-border incursions, to disarm and disband the militia and to prosecute those responsible for violence,'' Soderberg said.

``But the situation does not change; the Indonesian government and security forces do not act and violence and instability continue in West Timor. The death of Private Manning is the tragic result of these failures,'' she said.

Powles said New Zealand demanded that ``those responsible for this death be brought to justice.'' He said that ``the large scale presence of refugees provides cover for the militia's existence and activities.''

In response, Indonesia's U.N. ambassador, Makarim Wibisono, said Jakarta was deploying extra army units on the border and had formed a joint committee with the United Nations on cross border traffic. But he said ``there are no easy solutions'' to refugee repatriation, which involved a host of issues.

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