International Federation for East Timor
Observer Project

Media Alert:
Gunshots in Manatuto
A report from the IFET-OP* observer team in Manatuto.

The following release was issued at 10 am local time on 19 August 1999 by the IFET Observer Project in Dili, East Timor.

For further information contact either:

East Timor field office (Dili)
Sabine Hammer or Russell Anderson
Tel. 62-390-321969 fax:62-390-321264

International press contact
Maggie Helwig
Tel. 1-416-537-7290 (Toronto, Canada)

At 8 a.m. this morning, gunshots rang through the town of Manatuto, about one and a half hours drive east of Dili. According to local sources a group, around 10 militia members and at least one soldier of the Kopassusí, Indonesiaís special forces, fired shots, in the center of the town, 150 meters away from the IFET (International Federation for East Timor) observers house.

The armed group then proceeded to the CNRT office (National Council for Timorese Resistance). IFET observers went to the office and found that the windows had been smashed and the walls were damaged by bullets.

Militia members continued to roam the city, shouting to intimidate the population. They stopped again in front of the IFET house. Fearing more violence, 50 local people fled into the IFET observersí compound.

At the time of the attack, members of the CNRT were leaving from the office for a meeting in the forest nearby with the pro-independence armed resistance group, Falentil. Manatuto had been described as a calm in the past. At 9 a.m. this morning, gunshots could still be heard. IFET observers describe the situation as volatile.

IFET members are interviewing the witnesses and have names of four of the militia and one Kopassus soldier.

On August 30, a UN-sponsored vote will decide if East Timor will be a part of Indonesia or if it will be an independent state. Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, in 1975, a move not recognized by the UN.

*The International Federation for East Timor Observer Project (IFET-OP) is composed of trained volunteers from a variety of countries throughout the world. We are the largest international observer mission in East Timor, with more than 75 observers now in the territory. IFET-OP has teams of observers in Aileu, Baucau, Maliana, Manatuto, Maubisse, Same, and Suai; we expect to have teams in all 13 of East Timor's districts on Consultation day. IFET-OP is accredited by UNAMET as a non- partisan observer mission. IFET-OP carefully monitors the human rights situation as it relates to the UNAMET-run consultation process, voter registration, political campaigning, and the actual vote. IFET-OP publishes and distributes reports, including a final one evaluating the entire consultation process.  

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