Subject: Times[London]: Timorese massacred in a church
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1999 10:02:57 EDT

The Times [London] September 8 1999

Forty Timorese are massacred in a church


WITH the United Nations presence in East Timor on the verge of collapse and its Dili compound perhaps hours from closure, details have emerged of a massacre of 40 people.

There are also growing concerns for the hundreds of Timorese who have supported the UN operation but whom it is now abandoning.

The 40 men, women and children hiding in a church in Suai, in the east of the territory, were shot and hacked to death even though the priest, Father Ilario Madeira, had begged on his knees for their lives.

They were among 3,000 refugees at the church who had fled there overnight. Less than 12 hours earlier, a UN helicopter crew had reported that the church precincts were empty after they had been cleared by militiamen.

The last centre of UN operations in Baucau foreshadowed the retribution the Indonesians may take against those whom they see as contributing to the UN effort.

Realising that they were about to be abandoned as UN officials fled to the airport, 60 Timorese staff and their families went there to demand passage to Darwin on an RAAF Hercules.

The Indonesians would not let them board and in a lengthy stand-off the 60 were surrounded by special forces troops. Around the Timorese was a ring of 15 UN civilian police while Archbishop Carlos Belo, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, negotiated for their passage.

The Indonesians refused to back down and the families were taken by UN helicopter to Dili where their fate is unknown. Most likely they will join the 60,000 refugees now there and being taken by lorry to West Timor while Jakarta systematically repopulates East Timor in an attempt to create a new and compliant territory.

Some 300,000 people are to be moved under this plan, according to João Carrascalao, an East Timorese resistance leader in Australia. Mr Carrascalao says that up to 30,000 people are already at the West Timor border. On his way into Darwin last night, Bishop Belo said he was going to Rome to discuss the future of his destroyed diocese. "Next Sunday there will be nobody in the church," he said.

Yesterday the sister of José Ramos-Horta, East Timor's public face in the West, fled to the Dili UN compound. Aida Ramos-Horta de Assis said a Timorese officer had smashed down the door of her house and warned her: "After the 13th, East Timor is going to be made a plain. It is going to be razed."

He said: "You are Indonesian, why are you for independence?" He warned her not to flee to the UN compound "because tomorrow UNAMET goes away and you will be left here". Nevertheless she fled to the compound with five children and an old woman.

The whereabouts of her husband is unknown while one of her "activist" neighbours was murdered with a bullet through the back of her head - a sure sign of a military "execution". She was buried in the garden without a funeral.

UNAMET Timorese workers in Dili begged the world to keep the UN presence going.

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