Subject: Cosgrove praises arrest of massacre suspect

Sydney Morning Herald Feb 10, 2000

Cosgrove praises arrest of massacre suspect


Dili: A militia leader suspected of involvement in a massacre in East Timor and of attacking Australian troops has been arrested by Indonesian authorities following allegations by Interfet forces.

Major-General Peter Cosgrove said yesterday the arrest of Laurantinio "Moko" Soares on Monday was evidence of vastly improved co-operation with Indonesian military authorities, praising in particular Major-General Kiki Syahnakri.

Police in West Timor said Soares had been charged with selling a gun to a pig farmer, but General Cosgrove said he believed Soares would also be charged with murder and looting.

Soares, commander of the Saukunar militia group, was arrested in the West Timor town of Kefamenanu, 15 kilometres from the border with the East Timor enclave of Oecussi. He has been implicated in a reign of militia terror inside Oecussi including the massacre of up to 60 people in post-referendum violence last September.

"We know the cross-border incursions were people acting under Moko's instructions - that's accepted by all involved and all those parties that investigated it," General Cosgrove said.

He said a heavily armed group of Indonesian soldiers had surrounded Soares' house in Indonesian West Timor. Soares had some weapons and ammunition at the house, in breach of Indonesian law.

"Now he is available for further investigation in relation to the raft of charges and allegations made by Interfet and the UN Civil Police," General Cosgrove said.

The UN Civpol are expected to formally request access to question Soares.

"Certainly he is an Indonesian citizen and one who was arrested in Indonesia and one whose crimes occurred while Oecussi was under Indonesian administration. How those factors pan out in a legal sense, I'm not sure, but ... he is now off the street," the general said.

Expressing gratitude to General Syahnakri and his newly appointed area commander in West Timor, Lieutenant-Colonel Pontoh, for their decisive action, General Cosgrove said there was ample evidence that Soares had previously held some kind of sway over the Indonesian military. "That's not the case here," he said.

United Nations police officers patrolling in East Timor, including Australians, will be issued with sidearms from today following an increase in violence in the territory.

Carlos Lima, commissioner of the multinational civilian police force (Civpol) ordered the officers be issued with guns "following security concerns raised by Civpol officers after the recent violent incidents", a UN official attached to the transitional administration in East Timor (UNTAET) said.

By the end of this month, 80 Australian State and Federal Police officers will be serving with Civpol in Timor.

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