Subject: Army provokes militia attack on Red Cross and church
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1999 12:39:06 EDT

Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, September 8, 1999

Army provokes militia attack


Eyewitnesses have told how the Indonesian military combined with militias in Dili to storm Catholic Church and Red Cross compounds, forcing out thousands of East Timorese people sheltering there.

Speaking after his evacuation to Darwin, the head of the Red Cross in Dili, Mr Jean Luc Metzker, said that on Monday morning militia men armed with automatic weapons broke into the Red Cross compound where 2,000 people, including children as young as two-day-old babies, were sheltering.

They were backed by Indonesian police, who surrounded the compound's perimeter so people could not flee, and by Indonesian Army units who pulled up in army trucks to help transport the refugees away.

They fired into the windows of the Red Cross compound, over the heads of the thousands of terrified people including another 3,000 sheltering in Catholic Archbishop Carlos Belo's compound next door.

An Irish freelance journalist, Mr Sean Steele, watching from a nearby hotel roof, told the Herald that Indonesian Army officers were directing the militias, yelling: "Go on, attack them, attack them, they support independence."

Mr Metzker, a Swiss national, said: "It was an incredible feeling of panic among the 2,000 people. They were shooting in the air, shooting at the buildings, then they shot over the heads of the people.

"Then they started smashing the windows, making a lot of noise and creating a feeling of terrible panic."

Before being flown out of Dili by an RAAF Hercules, he said he had seen 50,000 to 60,000 refugees being herded along roads and beaches towards a large Indonesian police compound in Dili. They had been told they would be trucked to West Timor. He said there was no question that a forced removal of tens of thousand of East Timorese who supported independence was under way.

Mr David Wimhurst, the spokesman for the UN mission in East Timor, also relocated from Dili to Darwin, said the Indonesian military had broken an agreement with the UN to look after refugees' security.

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