Subject: WP: Feared 'Kopassus' unit may be behind Timor terror
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 1999 02:55:59 EDT
From: Joyo@aol.com

[the article appears on the front page of today's Washington Post]

Excerpt: Sources said they believed members of the military's feared special forces unit, known as Kopassus, had donned militia T-shirts and were participating in some of the violence.

Many victims were shot with bullets from high-velocity assault rifles rather than the crude homemade weapons used in the past by the militias.

A Filipino doctor working at a Catholic clinic said he had treated four teenage gunshot victims from the besieged Becora neighborhood, and all had been shot with military assault rifles. "All the injuries you could see were from high-velocity rifles," he said. "You could see it from the wound."

One policeman outside the Turismo Hotel said before it was evacuated that he considered militia members his friends and would not shoot them if the hotel were attacked. "What they are doing is good for the country," he said.

But the possibility of active involvement by Kopassus members in spreading chaos, if confirmed, would add a dangerous and unexpected element to East Timor's slide into anarchy. Rogue elements from Kopassus have been implicated in the kidnapping and assassination of political dissidents during the last days of President Suharto's government, for the sniping deaths of four students at Trisakti University last year, and for instigating the May 1998 riots in Jakarta that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Ten Kopassus members were arrested last year for their role in the kidnappings.

Diplomats and other analysts have long suspected a "third force" behind much of East Timor's militia violence, as hard-liners in the Indonesian armed forces may have wanted to disrupt last week's referendum on autonomy as a way to prevent separatist sentiment from spreading across the archipelago.

One diplomat, speaking anonymously, said earlier, "a special black operations unit within Kopassus" was the main instigator of the militia violence. "You won't ever see them," he said. "They won't necessarily be the people wearing uniforms."

Militia leader Eurico Guterres, who heads the Aitarak "Thorn" militia, also alluded last week in a news conference to an unnamed "third force" that he said was behind the violence.

East Timorese have long assumed that the militia violence was being orchestrated at the top levels of the armed forces.

complete article:

Washington Post Monday, September 6, 1999; Page A01

Thousands Flee Chaos Engulfing E. Timor

Military, Police May Be Involved In New Violence

By Keith B. Richburg Washington Post Foreign Service

DILI, Indonesia, Sept. 5—Pro-Indonesian militias continued their campaign of violence, and thousands of people fled East Timor today, while diplomats and U.N. officials said signs were mounting that military and police units were participating in the violence.

There has been no evidence that the central government is intervening to stop the anarchy that intensified Saturday after the announcement that nearly four-fifths of East Timorese had who went to the polls voted to reject an offer of autonomy and thus break away from Indonesia. Casualty numbers were impossible to confirm, as few people ventured onto the streets, but various sources said scores could be dead and many more wounded in Dili alone.

"There is every indication that a massacre is taking place, staged by [Indonesian] military forces," Ana Gomes, Lisbon's envoy to Jakarta, told Portugal's TSF radio. "Over 100 dead would be a conservative estimate."

The downtown Mahkota Hotel, where many U.N. staff members and journalists were housed, was set ablaze. The nearby Turismo Hotel also was attacked and journalists there were forced to leave. The U.N. compound was crowded with refugees -- many cut and bleeding from scrambling over razor wire to get inside -- and was under siege tonight, with gunfire heard all around. Water and electricity have been cut off in some parts of the city, and the seaside capital's night sky was glowing from fires.

This morning, Indonesia's armed forces chief, Gen. Wiranto, flew into this besieged capital for crisis talks with his military commanders, but there was no word later on any new initiatives. However, he did affirm an earlier promise to send 1,400 troops to maintain order.

Calls continued today for the Indonesian government to let the international community help restore order. The U.N. Security Council met in emergency session in New York to fashion a reaction to the deteriorating situation in East Timor. Diplomats said there was continued resistance from the council to the rapid deployment of a U.N. mission with the mandate to impose law and order. Instead the council revived a debate on an initiative, initially advanced by Canada last week, to send a mission from the council to assess the security situation.

The U.N. Secretariat, meanwhile, called together countries considering committing troops to a future peacekeeping operation in East Timor. And Portugal sought to ratchet up pressure on the United States to put its political muscle behind a push for the immediate deployment of U.N. peacekeeping force to the region.

In East Timor, as the anarchy spread, diplomats, U.N. officials and others said there were increasing indications that Indonesian army and police forces have joined in the violence. It has long been known that some members of the Indonesian police are sympathetic to the militias, which were trained by the military as a counterforce to the pro-independence movement. So far the pro-independence guerrillas are maintaining a cease-fire, in hopes that the central government or foreign powers will intervene. The fighting could become significantly bloodier if the guerrillas get involved.

Officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they had confirmed that a U.N. convoy traveling from Liquica to Dili on Saturday was fired on at three checkpoints by paramilitary police, who had manned roadblocks alongside militia members.

Other sources said they believed members of the military's feared special forces unit, known as Kopassus, had donned militia T-shirts and were participating in some of the violence.

Many victims were shot with bullets from high-velocity assault rifles rather than the crude homemade weapons used in the past by the militias.

A Filipino doctor working at a Catholic clinic said he had treated four teenage gunshot victims from the besieged Becora neighborhood, and all had been shot with military assault rifles. "All the injuries you could see were from high-velocity rifles," he said. "You could see it from the wound."

One policeman outside the Turismo Hotel said before it was evacuated that he considered militia members his friends and would not shoot them if the hotel were attacked. "What they are doing is good for the country," he said.

But the possibility of active involvement by Kopassus members in spreading chaos, if confirmed, would add a dangerous and unexpected element to East Timor's slide into anarchy. Rogue elements from Kopassus have been implicated in the kidnapping and assassination of political dissidents during the last days of President Suharto's government, for the sniping deaths of four students at Trisakti University last year, and for instigating the May 1998 riots in Jakarta that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Ten Kopassus members were arrested last year for their role in the kidnappings.

Diplomats and other analysts have long suspected a "third force" behind much of East Timor's militia violence, as hard-liners in the Indonesian armed forces may have wanted to disrupt last week's referendum on autonomy as a way to prevent separatist sentiment from spreading across the archipelago.

One diplomat, speaking anonymously, said earlier, "a special black operations unit within Kopassus" was the main instigator of the militia violence. "You won't ever see them," he said. "They won't necessarily be the people wearing uniforms."

Militia leader Eurico Guterres, who heads the Aitarak "Thorn" militia, also alluded last week in a news conference to an unnamed "third force" that he said was behind the violence.

East Timorese have long assumed that the militia violence was being orchestrated at the top levels of the armed forces.

After Mass this morning, Bishop Carlos Belo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was asked why the militias were still engaged in their campaign of terror, even after the referendum results made it clear that most people here favored independence. He replied: "You ask the commander of the military. You ask him."

Olandina Kairu, a prominent pro-independence leader who has sought shelter at Belo's compound, along with 2,000 other refugees, also said she believed the armed forces were behind the violence. "From the beginning, this has been planned by the military," she said. "If the military withdraw their support, there would be no militia."

Special correspondent Colum Lynch in New York contributed to this report.

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