Subject: REU - U.S. concerned about violence in East Timor
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 15:19:51 -0700
From: Donald L Ferry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
U.S. concerned about violence in East Timor
WASHINGTON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The United States on Monday expressed concern about an upsurge of violence in the troubled territory of East Timor, citing "credible reports" of civilian deaths during a recent military sweep.
"We are disturbed at reports of renewed violence in East Timor," State Department spokesman James Rubin said. "We call on all sides to refrain from violence and to take all measures necessary to assure that civilians are not mistreated or denied access to necessities."
Indonesia invaded the territory of 800,000 people in 1975 and annexed it the following year, in a move not recognised by the United Nations.
Rubin said that three Indonesian soldiers were killed and as many as 13 others taken hostage during an attack on an Indonesian outpost on East Timor on Nov 9.
He said International Committee of the Red Cross representatives had reported large numbers of civilians taking refuge in churches and fleeing villages as the Indonesian military swept the area in an attempt to free the hostages and track down the attackers.
"There have been credible reports of civilian deaths in the military sweep, but we do not have confirmed numbers," Rubin said.
He noted the Indonesian state news agency had reported that the military operation had been halted, but said the United States had not been able to confirm this.
In Jakarta, meanwhile, the Indonesian government on Monday denied a report that 44 people had been killed during a military crackdown on separatists in East Timor.
"It is not true that 44 people died," foreign ministry spokesman Gafar Fadyl told Reuters. "We have checked our data. We found out that names and other details are inaccurate," he said without elaborating.
In the territory's capital Dili, thousands of East Timorese students staged a protest against the crackdown at a local legislators' office.
Indonesia still faces armed resistance in the territory, mostly from the Fretilin guerrilla movement.