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Subject: Students to protest against Alas bloodbath
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 07:49:42 GMT

Student protests against bloodbath

Algemeen Dagblad 21 November 1998, front page Translated and abridged by TAPOL

Dili - from one of our reporters

Student organisations in Dili, the capital of East Timor, will hold a big demonstration on Monday to protest against a bloodbath perpetrated by the Indonesian army in Alas, a sub-district of about 1,000 inhabitants. According to reliable sources, between 9 and 19 November, at least 50 people were killed, including the village head. Others speak of more than 100 casualties. An eyewitness said yesterday: "There were so many bodies, I wasn't able to count".

It was probably an act of retaliation for an attack by rebels on 9 November on the headquarters of the army in Alas. The authorities have neither confirmed or denied the reports.

The separatists (sic) killed three soldiers and took 13 hostages. Eleven were released afterwards. Two soldiers - both East Timorese - are still being held hostage. [These two issued an appeal to the Indonesian armed forces not to use force to seek their release - see earlier posting from Solidamor.] The rebels have supposedly received assistance from the inhabitants of Alas.

The bloodbath is seen in East Timor as a desperate attempt to suppress the growing freedom and the process of political reforms that has developed since the resignation of President Suharto.

A feeling of despair in Dili The names of eleven of the victims of the Alas Massacre have been listed, according to our sources. So far 14 people have been arrested. The army has burned down about 30 houses in the village. Between 100 and 150 youngsters have fled to the mountains because they are being hunted by the military. Many elderly people, children and women have found refuge in the Catholic Church in Alas. The authorities have also cut off water supplies, according to East Timorese sources.

A region that has until now been accessible to everybody has been sealed off from the outside world, which means, according to our East Timorese sources, that a military operation is going on. Bishop Belo from East Timor, Nobel peace prize winner has offered to start negotiations with the army to allow relief workers to enter the area.

According to our sources, Indonesia has send fresh troops to the area, including battalions 744 and 745 (territorial battalions which include a large number of East Timorese), anti riot Brimob police and Garuda I and II battalions from the army's Strategic Reserve, Kostrad.

In Alas the military are searching for people who have assisted the Falintil rebels, according to witnesses. The units operate in groups of four. Suspects are shot dead on the spot.

According to several observers the military hope, by means of this bloody operation, to kill off the new atmosphere of freedom and reformasi that was embraced so enthusiastically in East Timor.

In the past few months students in East Timor have organised huge public meetings all over East Timor. At these meetings discussions were held about the political future of East Timor. The population were given information about the significance of the holding of a referendum, the choice between independence and a limited form of autonomy.

Recently, East Timorese political parties, although not yet recognised, have been allowed to operate. The hope of better times has been smashed by the Alas Massacre.

The atmosphere in Dili is one of anger, despair and confusion. "Almost everybody is silent, even the bishop" says a woman. "People do not understand why the army is using violence at a time when everything was looking fine. Only the students have the courage to do things".

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

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