Subject: AU: Suspect troops on Timor border

The Australian

Suspect troops on Timor border

Mark Dodd


A NOTORIOUS Indonesian army battalion implicated in mass killings, torture and mutilation - including the 1999 murder of a Dutch journalist - is in charge of security along the border with East Timor.

The UN Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor charged Indonesian battalion 745 with the 1999 murders of 21 civilians, including journalist Sander Thoenes.

The head of the UN in Dili, Sukehiro Hasegawa, warned last week about the notorious battalion's presence along the border.

In a cable to UN headquarters in New York dated October 17 -- a copy of which has been obtained by The Australian -- Mr Hasegawa raised serious concerns about militia-related violence along the border surrounding the Oecussi enclave. He also flagged worries about the unit's presence so close to East Timor.

"I wish to inform you that Chief Military Training Adviser Col Reis informed me TNI battalion 745 has now been placed in charge of the border security on the Indonesian side of West Timor," he said.

"This battalion, 745, is known for the brutal killings that took place in East Timor in 1999."

Battalion 745 became infamous for the trail of carnage left in its wake after withdrawing in the aftermath of the UN-organised independence ballot.

Thoenes, 30, was shot after the motorbike on which he was a passenger ran into the lead elements of the battalion convoy as it approached the suburb of Becora on the afternoon of September 21, 1999 -- one day after the arrival in Dili of an Australian-led international force.

"Soldiers from the battalion walked up to him (Thoenes) and shot him -- single shot into the chest -- effectively point-blank range," said former UN prosecutor Stuart Alford.

Dutch police later named a junior officer, Lieutenant Camilo dos Santos, as the man who pulled the trigger.

Thoenes's left ear was hacked off, his face mutilated and his body dumped by the road.

The battalion's entry into Dili was stalled by Australian troops who almost entered into a major gun battle with the Indonesians.

However, Major-General Peter Cosgrove, the then leader of the intervention force, ordered his men to allow the battalion to proceed on its way to West Timor, ending any chance of apprehending those responsible for the killings.

Indonesian prosecutors later charged two officers, battalion commander Lieutenant-Colonel Jacob Sarosa and Lieutenant dos Santos, with the Thoenes murder but the investigation was dropped for lack of evidence.

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