Subject: AFP: Pro-Indonesian militias rampage through Dili in violent spree

also Soldiers watched Timor massacre - Australian embassy report


Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 09:13:41 -0400
Agence France Presse -- English

April 17, 1999 09:56 GMT

Pro-Indonesian militias rampage through Dili in violent spree

By Bernard Estrade

DILI, East Timor, April 17 (AFP) - Armed pro-Indonesian militia rampaged unchecked through the East Timor capital Dili Saturday in a looting and killing spree which reports said left more than 20 people dead.

Witnesses said around 1,500 militiamen drove round the city's deserted streets in a convoy of some 25 trucks, firing in the air and attacking the homes of known pro-independence activists.

They burned down the house of Leandro Isaac, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of East Timor (CNRT), an umbrella group for the pro-independence movement and also the house of a late activist.

They also attacked offices of the Suara Timor Timur (the Voice of East Timor) daily, a human rights office and the house of pro-independence figure Manuel Carrascalao, where some 150 unarmed refugees were sheltered.

Pro-independence sources quoted residents as saying the bodies of more than 20 people could be seen strewn on the lawn of Carrascalao's house, and that four others could be seen in a neighbouring garden.

The Indonesian military meanwhile said eight people were confirmed dead in "clashes" between pro-independence supporters and the militia, although witnesses at the scene saw no sign of fighting between two sides.

An AFP reporter at the scene said the assault began with stones before it intensified as the militia advanced into the front garden and the reception room, shooting and smashing down doors.

The refugees, who had been camping in the back garden could find no way out, barred by high walls. Some 30 of them lay crying in fear on the floor of a back dining room.

Only 300 meters away, visiting Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews was meeting with Nobel Laureate Bishop Carlos Ximines Belo in his house.

Manuelito Carrascalao, the 18-year-old son of the former MP, was killed in the attack, his family said.

The AFP reporter and another French reporter emerged from the front of the house shouting that they were journalists. They were hit and threatened at gunpoint by the militia, before one of their leaders bundled them into a car and sent them back to their hotel with orders to stay there.

Shortly afterwards, a second group of militia armed with wooden poles entered the hotel and demanded the journalists hand over film from their cameras.

No troops or police were in sight and there was no attempt to stop the attack on the house, which is close to the governor's office, the AFP reporter said.

As dusk fell on the city armed militia were still roaming the streets at will and there was no attempt by the security forces to intervene.

Indonesian army Colonel Tono Suratman said violence erupted in "clashes between returning militia and pro-independence groups," who he said ambushed the militia.

"So far eight people have died from both sides," Suratman, chief of the East Timor military command, told AFP by phone. He declined to give details of the casualties.

An official at a clinic in Dili said seven people had been brought into the building with gunshot wounds.

One, a 58-year-old man shot in the chest as he stepped down from a bus at Dili's Becora terminal, died later at the Wirahusada military hospital.

Two youths shot in the chest and in the stomach were in grave condition.

The militias, who are backed by the Indonesian military and firmly oppose calls for East Timor to become independent, went on the rampage after holding a rally in Dili on Saturday morning.

Eurico Guterres, the leader of the Aitarak (Thorn) militia, told the morning parade his militia was launching a purge to weed out pro-independence supporters from the administration.

"Today, we are going to each government office, we will rid them of civil servants who are against Indonesia ... It is not right for them to accept Indonesian money and facilities," he added.

Last week jailed independence leader Xanana Gusmao called from Jakarta to his supporters in East Timor to take up arms to defend themselves in the face of threats from the pro-Jakarta militia.

The militias distributed threatening leaflets to intimidate independence activists before their show of strength.

Some leaflets carried a list of people to be beaten and outlined a series of steps to be taken before mid-May to crush pro-independence sentiment.

Indonesia, which invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year, said in January it will offer the territory independence if its people reject autonomy proposals still being formulated.

The rising violence has however threatened a planned UN-supervised vote on autonomyu tentatively scheduled for July.

be-bs/kw/pch

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Received from Joyo:

The Australian 17 April 99

Soldiers watched Timor massacre - Australian embassy report

By DON GREENLEES Jakarta correspondent

A CONFIDENTIAL Australian embassy report on the killing of East Timorese civilians in the town of Liquica concludes that allegations of a massacre are plausible and accuses the Indonesian military of colluding with militia forces in the lead-up to the incident.

The report prepared by two Jakarta-based diplomats also confirms the military failed to take steps to stop the killings in the grounds of the Catholic church in Liquica on April 6 despite being present in some numbers.

Evidence of a direct role by military personnel in the attack at the church and in violence outside Liquica the previous day is only circumstantial, according to the report, but includes gunshot wounds from weapons of a type issued to the military.

The report, handed to Alexander Downer on Wednesday, strengthens the case for Australia to take a tougher line with Jakarta to improve security in East Timor and exercise greater control over the military.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton has called on the Foreign Minister to release the report and be more assertive in pushing Indonesia to disarm militia groups and ensure the military act in accord with President B.J. Habibie's policy on East Timor.

Although diplomats have qualified their findings by pointing to the lack of genuinely independent sources, they found enough testimony and evidence of a substantial number of killings to warrant a detailed and impartial investigation. But they avoided using the term "massacre".

Their conclusions lend some credibility to claims by the Bishop of Dili, Carlos Belo, of a Liquica church death toll in excess of 25. Other human rights groups have produced the names of up to 50 people they say died in the churchyard. The Indonesian Government puts the toll at five.

The quick disposal of bodies and an attempt to remove bloodstains and cover up bullet holes at the house of Liquica's Catholic priest has made it difficult to confirm the death toll and gather evidence.

The Australian diplomats – a military officer and civilian bureaucrat – visited Liquica four days after the attack and interviewed numerous witnesses, activists, government officials and military commanders.

They found the military co-operated with the pro-integrationist Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron) militia in the lead-up to the attack, including with transport and logistical support.

During the attack on the church, the diplomats confirmed security personnel stood behind the mob of militia, firing their weapons in the air which increased panic among those villagers taking refuge.

They argue the 80-odd personnel in and around the town did not take up opportunities to restrain or head off the brutal attacks by militia on villagers. Local military commander Lieutenant Colonel Asep Kuswanto was said to be in the town but not actively involved in the events at the church.

But the report's conclusions will bolster claims by a variety of observers that the military is actively sponsoring the campaign by militia and paramilitary groups to keep East Timor a part of Indonesia.

In the wake of the attack, the Indonesian Government agreed to set up an independent commission to help solve the conflict and promote human rights. It has invited independent observers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, to investigate the violence.

But the ICRC claims threats by the militia have prevented Dili-based staff from assessing the humanitarian needs or investigating the violence.

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Indonesia army failed to stop Timor killings-paper

SYDNEY, April 17 (Reuters) - An Australian diplomatic report into an alleged massacre in an East Timor village had found Indonesian troops were present but failed to stop the killings, an Australian newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Australian newspaper said diplomats in Australia's Jakarta embassy had found that reports of a massacre in the village of Liquisa were plausible, but their report did not use the word massacre.

The newspaper said the diplomatic report found that the Indonesian military had colluded with pro-Jakarta militia forces in the lead-up to the attack and were ``present in some numbers'' at the time of the killings.

``Evidence of a direct role by military personnel in the attack... is only circumstantial... but includes gunshot wounds from weapons of a type issued by the military,'' the newspaper said.

It said the report ``found enough testimony and evidence of a substantial number of killings to warrant a detailed and impartial investigation.''

East Timor's spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Belo says 25 people were killed in the April 6 attack by the militias, but Indonesia rejected reports of a massacre, saying only five people were killed.

A spokesman for Australia's foreign minister told Reuters on Saturday that the report existed, but would not comment on its contents and said it would not be released for fear of endangering contacts in East Timor.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters late on Friday that it had not been possible to determine precisely how many people were killed in Liquisa.

``This report shows that between two and over 40 or so people were killed. We aren't in a position to be able to prove what happened there,'' Downer said.

Amnesty International accused the Indonesian military on Friday of destabilising East Timor by allowing pro-Jakarta militias to murder and rape East Timorese.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year, a move not recognised by the United Nations. East Timorese rebels have waged a 23-year guerrilla war for independence.

East Timor has seen an upsurge in violence between pro-Jakarta forces and rebels since January when Indonesia offered East Timor autonomy or independence.

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