|Subject: AFP: Bishop Belo says more than 25 killed
in church massacre
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 09:42:55 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo:
Timorese Bishop says more than 25 killed in church massacre
DILI, East Timor, April 7 (AFP) - Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo accused Indonesian-backed militia on Wednesday of massacring more than 25 people in East Timor outside a church.
Belo was speaking at a press conference with Father Rafael Dos Santos who described how refugees sheltering in his church and home at Liquisa, 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the Timorese capital Dili, were hacked down with machetes.
Dos Santos said Indonesian mobile brigade police stood behind the militia during the attack, and fired into the air.
When the attack began "people ran for cover wherever they could," he said. Some ran into his house and some into the church before being forced out when troops fired teargas into the buildings.
"When they came out of the church, their eyes streaming, they were mown down, hacked to death with machetes, by the Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron militia)," he said.
Portugal's envoy to Indonesia Ana Gomes called for an international inquiry in the massacre after meeting jailed East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao in his house prison in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Belo travelled to Liquisa earlier Wednesday to visit the site of the attack with Indonesia's East Timor military commander Colonel Tono Suratman.
"I have a paper from the military commander that there were 25 bodies inside the priest's house," he said, "but according to other witnesses outside around the church there were other bodies. I don't know exactly how many."
Belo had been quoted by the Portugese news agency Lusa on Tuesday as saying he had first been informed by the Indonesian military of the deaths of 40 people in the church and five in the priest's house.
Indonesian military spokesman Major General Syamsul Maarif said however that only five civilians were killed during the violence.
"Firstly I am sad, for what happened in Liquisa ... secondly I am ashamed to be a citizen of the (Indonesian) republic. It has taken us back to the middle ages," Belo said.
"This is a tragedy, a killing just like what happened in Santa Cruz in 1991," he said, referring to the massacre of pro-independence demonstrators in the East Timor capital Dili which left 50 dead according to an official toll and more than 100 according to other reports.
He said President B.J. Habibie should set up a special military council to probe the massacre.
Belo also said the Liquisa massacre was "proof that Xanana is right" -- alluding to a call by Xanana Gusmao on Monday for his people to take up arms against pro-Indonesian militias.
Portugese envoy Ana Gomes called for an international investigation in a press conference at Gusmao's detention house.
"We feel an international investigation would be necessary to establish what happened in Liquisa," Gomes said.
"We don't know exactly what happened. We do not know if four, 20, 40 or how many were killed. We want to clarify indeed what had happened."
The envoy also reiterated calls for an international presence in East Timor.
"An international presence is absolutely necessary in East Timor to calm the tension and to deter the violence, from whoever is intending to launch it," Gomes said.
"This time in Liquisa, there were no observers. Nobody knows what happened yet," she said.
Pierre Gerber, from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jakarta, said: "The ICRC could not proceed to Liquisa because of concerns for the security of its delegates."
Gusmao, through his lawyer, on Tuesday also called for a UN peace keeping force in East Timor to disarm the civilian population and halt the violence in the former Portuguese colony which Jakarta annexed in 1976.
But Indonesian Armed Forces chief General Wiranto Wednesday rejected the call, insisting that problems in East Timor were "the internal concerns of the Republic of Indonesia".
In New York Tuesday the United Nations also rejected the calls for a peacekeeping force, but expressed concern over the violence in East Timor.