Subject: E. Timorese mark 15th anniversary of Santa Cruz massacre

East Timorese mark 15th anniversary of Santa Cruz massacre

DILI, November 12 (AFP) -- More than 1,000 East Timorese gathered in the capital Dili on Sunday to mark the 15th anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, when Indonesian troops fired on a memorial procession, killing more than 250 people.

Dili's Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva presided at the seaside Motael church over a memorial service for the victims of the November 12, 1991, massacre of East Timorese taking part in a procession to the capital's Santa Cruz cemetery.

In all, 271 East Timorese are known to have died, while a further 250 are missing, believed dead, and 382 were wounded.

The massacre occurred when Indonesian soldiers fired into a crowd of independence protesters holding a memorial procession for Sebastio Gomez, a young East Timorese man.

Gomez was killed when Indonesian soldiers stormed the Motael church to seek pro-independence activists.

"This is a day to reflect for all of us, so that we can step forward," the bishop told the congregation packed into the small seaside church, as more worshippers listened outside.

The congregation then processed to the cemetery some two kilometers (one mile) away, carrying pictures of the dead and missing.

There, they laid wreaths and heard speeches by rights activists calling on the Indonesian government to account for the massacre and reveal where the bodies of those missing were buried. No incidents were reported.

One of the ceremony's coordinators, Joao Shoque, said young Timorese had shown patriotism and solidarity 15 years ago.

"Therefore I trust that youths in Timor Leste can show their solidarity to others and mutually embrace each other," Shoque said.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and declared the country its youngest province the following year, but in the face of persistent armed resistance.

The Santa Cruz massacre was a turning point in the history of East Timor as it put the occupation of the former Portuguese colony into world attention, prompting more internationalsupport for the East Timorese cause.

East Timor achieved full independence only in 2002, four years after Indonesia relinquished control of the territory following a UN-sponsored self-determination ballot. Violence flared in the half-island nation in May between security force factions, as well as street gangs, leaving about 37 people dead over two months and forcing the deployment of 3,200 Australian-led regional forces.

Their numbers have since been reduced to 1,100, bolstered by the presence of about 1,000 UN police.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


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