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Subject: RT: Survivors mourn losses in East Timor massacre
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 07:26:10 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <etan@etan.org>

Survivors mourn losses in East Timor massacre By Lewa Pardomuan

DILI, East Timor, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Alex Santino Da Costa survived by faking death when Indonesian troops opened fire on demonstrators in the East Timor capital Dili seven years ago.

``Two bullets hit my left leg while another one pierced my left shoulder. I was so scared that I pretended to be dead...I fainted,'' said the 22-year-old student.

``The army shot us like shooting at goats,'' said Da Costa, one of the survivors who on Thursday marked the the seventh anniversary of the 1991 killings in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili.

Locals say 200 people were killed in the incident following a youth's funeral, when thousands of East Timorese staged a protest against Indonesia's 1975 invasion of the former Portuguese colony.

The Indonesian government, which annexed the enclave the following year, put the death toll at 50.

Regardless of the numbers, the mourning continues.

``I lost my best friend Thomas,'' Da Costa said. ``I am still sad when thinking about him. What happened in Santa Cruz keeps coming in my dreams,'' he told Reuters.

In a bid to reduce tension in the territory of 800,000, the Indonesian government says it has started withdrawing troops from East Timor. About 10,500 troops and police are left in the predominantly Catholic region, the military says.

Pro-Timorese groups however say the military has increased its presence to about 21,000, including police and local militia.

Indonesia's rule in East Timor is not recognised by the United Nations.

About 1,000 people gathered in Santa Cruz on Thursday to commemorate the killings in an emotional drama portraying the massacre. Many people, actors and spectators, were in tears.

Unlike past years, there was no sign of an increased military presence in Dili, which is usually tense ahead of and during the anniversary of the killings. It was also the first time the anniversary was marked in the cemetery itself.

``I was so emotional when acting in the drama. The killing was such a traumatic experience,'' said Abe Alim, another survivor of the shooting.

``After the incident, I am always scared of the military. I hate them,'' said the 25-year-old.

Alim said she carried an anti-Indonesia banner together with some protesters who had already entered the cemetery on November 12, 1991.

Others were still outside and were the first to die because troops opened fire from behind, she said.

``I was in front when the slaughter happened. When I heard the shooting from behind, I thought they were only warning shots. I was wrong,'' she said.

``I was so scared and I cried. I managed to escape and hid in a nurse's house,'' said Alim, adding that she sought refuge at the house for about eight hours before going home.

Da Costa said he was brought by a truck to the local military hospital in Dili. ``I was there with the dead bodies inside the truck. I regained consciousness in the hospital,'' he said.

Da Costa said many bodies of the victims were never found. ``We will never know where the bodies are. We learned they were dumped into the sea,'' he said.

Da Costa said he was sent to Jakarta with seven other survivors for surgery to remove the bullets.

Human rights organisations have accused the military of a series of abuses in the territory. They estimate that some 200,000 people have died during the invasion or from hardship and famine in subsequent years.

Inside the Santa Cruz cemetery on Thursday, mourners laid wreaths at a wooden crucifix erected to remember the dead.

``I am so sad...I just can't speak,'' said another survivor who declined to give her name as she stood near the crucifix.


John M. Miller Internet: etan-outreach@igc.apc.org Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network PO Box 150753, Brooklyn, NY 11215-0014 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 ETAN's new web site: http://etan.org

Send a blank e-mail message to timor-info@igc.apc.org to find out how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet

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