Sat, 11 Sep 1999

TNI kills four Falintil members in clash

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) troops killed four members of the proindependence armed wing Falintil in an evening clash in Dili on Friday.

The incident broke days of silence which prevailed in the territory since the military emergency status was imposed there on Tuesday.

Head of the Security Restoration Operation Command Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri told Antara his troops opened fire on the Falintil who defied an order to stop harassing people fleeing the territory.

Except for the clash, East Timor was relatively quiet on the day when the United Nations evacuated more of its staff, maintaining a skeleton presence in the territory.

Spokesman for the command, Col. Willem Rampangilei, told The Jakarta Post by phone from the East Timor capital of Dili on Friday night that looting had stopped because there was "nothing left to be looted".

The command has begun a search for murder victims reported by the media, Willem said. With only a handful of journalists remaining in Dili and the telecommunications network not yet restored, there is a near total media blackout in the territory.

Willem confirmed reports that 29 people had been injured in Suai on Tuesday, but denied that 12 of them had died. He also said no priests or nuns were among the victims.

East Timor plunged into turmoil following last week's referendum in which the people overwhelmingly rejected wide- ranging autonomy within Indonesia, which was tantamount to a vote for independence. Rights organizations have estimated the death toll in the territory at thousands.

AFP reported minor violence marked the evacuation of local UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) staff from their headquarters in Dili earlier in the day.

The news agency quoted UNAMET officials and eyewitnesses as saying that a group of proautonomy militiamen broke into a schoolyard next to the UN compound and vandalized vehicles parked there.

"The militia are angry because local UN staff have been taken out," said Lindsay Murdoch of The Sydney Morning Herald, one of the few journalists remaining in the compound.

Soldiers meant to be guarding the compound did nothing to prevent the incident, although military leaders later dispersed the militia, UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst said at the mission's office in Darwin, Australia.

A source inside the compound told AFP by telephone the militiamen and soldiers entered the parking lot as three convoys of UN staff left for the airport and shots were fired.

"We got the convoys out. Some Aitarak (militia) boys are in the car park next door; right now it's a fairly tense situation," UN staff member Brian Kelly said.

Willem denied the incident took place, saying UNAMET chief Ian Martin "praised the Indonesian Military troops for their professionalism" during the evacuation.

Two Australian C130 Hercules military transports landed in Darwin later in the day carrying about 160 people, mainly East Timorese UN staff. Evacuation flights were scheduled to continue throughout the day.

"The operation so far has gone smoothly; there were no problems in moving our convoy from the compound to the airport," Wimhurst said.

Kelly said the decision to evacuate UN staff was taken in light of a deteriorating security situation and dwindling supplies.

The UN compound was home to some 2,000 refugees a few days ago, but many have fled into the nearby hills fearing a massacre once the UN pulled out.

UN officials in Darwin said about 50 international UN staff still remained in East Timor.


From Lisbon, Reuters reported that visiting East Timorese spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo called on the United Nations Security Council on Friday to act urgently to halt the "genocide" in the territory.

The Roman Catholic bishop said international organizations, particularly the Security Council, had to intervene to "save whatever could be saved" in East Timor.

The bishop, who was met at Lisbon airport by Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio and Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, said international peacekeeping forces were needed in the former Portuguese colony to restore order and protect the defenseless civilian population.

"The situation is one of genocide with a cleaning out of the villages and towns of their inhabitants," he said in a statement upon his arrival.

The bishop, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his work on behalf of East Timor, was himself forced to flee his home in Dili when it was attacked by militias. He first took refuge in the East Timor town of Baucau before escaping to Australia on Tuesday.

Belo, who will travel on to Rome to brief Pope John Paul on the situation in East Timor, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Red Cross must also establish a presence in East Timor as soon as possible.

He said the fact that thousands of East Timorese, both those who had voted for independence and those who opposed it, were being transported by Indonesia to the western part of the island of Timor raised his eyebrows.

"I do not know what the strategy of Indonesia is," he said, referring to the mass deportations. (lem/amd)