Subject: AFP: Militia in ambush attack behind Timor atrocities

Militia in ambush attack behind Timor atrocities

CASSA, East Timor, Oct 7 (AFP) - The armed men involved in a fatal clash with international peacekeepers in East Timor were from a feared militia which has committed a series of atrocities, witnesses said Thursday.

Residents of this mountain village said the attack on Wednesday had been carried out by members of the Mahidi (Live or Die for Integration) militia, whose leader Cancio Carvalho is based here.

Villagers said the militia had tied one man to a steel-framed chair with wire and burned him alive. The chair, wire and the charred remains of the man were visible Thursday outside Carvalho's headquarters.

"They tied him to that and set him alight after stabbing him in front of the whole town in the soccer field," said Armandio de Jesus, a former UN employee.

The Mahidi, which has threatened to wage guerrilla war to prevent East Timor severing its ties to Indonesia, also raided the nearby village of Hatohudo on Sunday, beheading one woman and killing five others, residents said.

"There was a lot of shooting. They came in trucks. We all ran," said Aniceto Xavier, 31. "The militia cut the head off the lady and put her head on an oil drum in the middle of the road."

Xavier said the militia had told the people they should go to Atambua, across the border in West Timor, or they would be killed.

The Mahidi have virtually destroyed Cassa -- a mountain town about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the border with West Timor -- forcibly removing many of its residents.

Two militiamen were killed on Wednesday when they ambushed an Australian patrol near the town of Suai. Two Australian soldiers were injured.

Residents of Cassa said about 500 people had been loaded onto a convoy of militia trucks and stolen United Nations vehicles and driven across the border.

Only about 100 people remained in the town, many of them women and children.

They survived by running off into the forest when the militia trucks rumbled in. Fearing the militia will return, they have now armed themselves with spears and bows and arrows.

"The militia told the people here that they would drop their families in Atambua and they would return to kill those who stayed," said de Jesus, who was the presiding UN electoral official for the August 30 ballot, in which East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence.

De Jesus, who said he would have been a prime target for the militia, had hidden in the forest and emerged after the militia had left.

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