Subject: NZPA: Australia trains Indonesian troops linked to Kiwi's death

Australia trains Indonesian troops linked to Kiwi's death


Australia is to resume training Indonesia's most feared Army unit, Kopassus, which has been linked to the murder of New Zealand soldier Private Leonard Manning in Timor, and to human rights abuses.

"Senior New Zealand Army intelligence officers were in no doubt Manning's death involved Kopassus," the Australian newspaper reported yesterday.

Kopassus was also allegedly involved in the training of militia, and intelligence, beatings and torture in Timor in 1999.

Private Manning, 24, was shot in an ambush in July 2000.

East Timor militiaman Yacobus Bere is serving a six-year jail sentence imposed by a court in Jakarta after he was prosecuted as one of five people who killed Private Manning.

At the time of the shooting, senior New Zealand Army officers were reported to have speculated that, as well as training and equipping the militia, the Indonesian Army might also have been part of the group which attacked the New Zealand troops.

"A follow-up operation by Kiwi troops scouring the area of the ambush recovered several items of military paraphernalia including a special forces first-aid kit and a discarded Kopassus tunic," the Australian said.

Kopassus has been accused of involvement in numerous human rights abuses stemming from operations in Aceh, Maluku, West Papua and East Timor.

The Australian Defence Force trained Indonesian Army personnel up to 1999, as did Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) specialists in hostage rescue, counter-insurgency, long-range surveillance and clandestine operations.

Now the Bali bombings and the war on terror have led the Australian Government to announce that counter-terrorism exercises between the SASR and Kopassus will resume early next year.

A spokesman for East Timor's most respected human rights group Yayasan HAK, Jose Oliveira, said the extent of Kopassus' accountability in the violence that swept East Timor in 1999 was still unresolved.

At his war crimes trial in 2001, East Timorese militia leader Joni Marques, facing 13 counts of murder, assault, kidnapping and torture including the cold-blooded killing of a nun, said Australian SAS and Indonesian Kopassus forces were his former trainers.

The militiaman told the Dili court he was recruited and trained by Kopassus, in exercises involving Australian troops.


* Kopassus is Indonesia's elite special forces group.

* The Army unit has been linked to torture in the Timor conflict and involvement in numerous human rights abuses stemming from operations in Aceh, Maluku and West Papua.

* Counter-terrorism exercises between Australia's Special Air Service and Kopassus resume next year.

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