Subject: SMH/E.Timor: Murdered staff were told to leave, says military

Sydney Morning Herald September 9, 2000

Murdered staff were told to leave, says military

By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald Correspondent in Kupang, West Timor

The Indonesian military officer in charge of West Timor claimed yesterday that foreign aid workers killed in the border town of Atambua had been told twice to evacuate the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Colonel Jurefar said in Kupang, West Timor, that the three foreign staff who were hacked to death then set alight insisted they could not leave the building "because they were on contract to stay".

"I regret what happened but we did advise the staff to leave, first four hours before the incident and then just before," he said.

Colonel Jurefar's claim is contradicted by accounts of UN staff who survived Wednesday's attack. They said that while they were warned of an impending attack, they had been guaranteed Indonesian protection.

Witnesses said Indonesian security forces did nothing to stop the attack. Evacuated UNHCR staff said they survived only after making a desperate escape from the building.

Making his first public comments since the attack, Colonel Jurefar said it was possible the killings and the earlier murder and mutilation of a pro-Jakarta militia leader, Olivio MendoÇa Moruk, was designed to embarrass President Abdurrahman Wahid while he was attending the UN's peace summit in New York.

The murder in turn provoked Moruk's supporters to mount Wednesday's attack, he said.

"We have set up a joint police and military task force to investigate this matter."

Colonel Jurefar said the attack followed clashes between East Timorese militia and West Timorese, who are becoming increasingly angry at the presence of up to 120,000 East Timorese refugees.

He said tensions escalated after the murder of Moruk, who was decapitated, disembowelled and had his testicles cut off.

The first retaliation by the militia was a midnight attack on a local village in which six people were killed and 80 houses burnt to the ground. Hours later a group of about 3,000 refugees, including militia, took Moruk's headless body to a rally in Atambua.

Colonel Jurefar said Moruk's supporters broke away and stormed the UNHRC's office. "There was a great number and they were carrying sharp weapons. It was difficult to stop."

But a Kupang taxi driver said soldiers and police stood by and watched the killings.

Asked why the militia attacked the UN offices, Colonel Jurefar said: "They feel they were cheated by the UN's referendum in East Timor last year. They become extremely angry when they see white people."

He said that while 15 suspects were in custody over the attack, the real culprits had "melted away back into the refugee camps and the local population".

The last busload of UN and other agency staff were driven out of Kupang to the airport yesterday, escorted by heavily armed police.

Colonel Jurefar said he could not guarantee the safety of foreigners in West Timor, and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta has warned all Australians to leave West Timor immediately.

September Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from