Subject: IO: Militia leader claims he killed UN peacekeeper in self defense

January 19 - 2001 Indonesian Observer

Militia leader claims he killed UN peacekeeper in self defense

JAKARTA (IO) — A militiaman who killed a New Zealander serving with the UN forces in East Timor last year, yesterday claimed he had shot the soldier in self defense.

Yakobus Bere (29), former commander of the Laksaur pro-Indonesian militia in East Timor, was arrested on January 10 in West Timor for the murder of Leonard Manning (24).

Bere said he and four other Laksaur militiamen on July 19 crossed from West Timor into East Timor in pursuit of 20 missing cattle that had run across the border. He said they found the cattle by July 24 and were about to take them across the border when a UN patrol suddenly appeared and started shooting at them.

“They shot at us with automatic weapons, so I launched a counter-attack, shot Manning in the head and scared the other UN personnel away. I cut his throat with my knife while he was still alive and then cut off his ears to keep them as mementos,” Bere was quoted as saying by Antara in Belu, West Timor, where he is under police detention.

The militiaman admitted he and his colleagues had been carrying firearms. “But it was the UN troops who started shooting first. We only followed suit to defend ourselves,” he asserted.

“My friends ran away, but my legs had been wounded so there was no choice for me but to defend myself,” he told reporters, showing them scars on his legs.

The militiaman said the shootout lasted for five minutes and he single- handedly managed to overcome the UN soldiers.

After mutilating Manning, Bere took the New Zealander’s automatic rifle and went off to join his friends across the border. They soon discovered they were on a wanted list for the murder and went into hiding.

“Indonesian police started searching for me, but I hid in the forest for about six months before I surrendered and submitted my guns to police in Belu,” he said.

He told reporters he could have survived in the forest for many more months, but gave himself up because he was missing his two young sons, aged 3 years and 6 months respectively.

“The four other guys are still somewhere in the forest but I don’t know where they are,” he added.

Belu Police Chief, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Nender Yani, said Bere will be put on trial in Belu. “We have informed the United Nations that the case of the murdered UN soldier will be processed in line with the law.

The military has no intention of protecting any militiamen, let alone providing them with ammunition. On the contrary, we’re trying to disband all militia forces.”

Head of the Indonesian border security taskforce, Colonel Irwan Kusnadi, on Tuesday told Antara that troops searching for weapons found Manning’s missing rifle at Bere’s hideout near the East Timorese border during a raid in October last year. Bere managed to flee and had since then been on the run until surrendering on January 10.

Local district deputy police chief, Commissioner Koeshartono has said the suspect will under no circumstances be handed over to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor.

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