Subject: SMH: Indon riot squad 'took part in massacre'
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 09:46:44 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo:

Sydney Morning Herald 09/04/99

Indonesian riot squad 'took part in massacre'

By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Indonesian security forces took part in the massacre of more than 25 unarmed East Timorese villagers on Tuesday and were not just looking on as previously reported, says a Catholic priest.

Father Rafael dos Santos said on Wednesday that only Timorese-born members of an Indonesian riot squad carried and used high-powered automatic rifles during the massacre at his house and church in the coastal town of Liquica, 40 kilometres west of the capital.

Yesterday, he said the riot police, Indonesian soldiers and members of a Jakarta-backed paramilitary group stormed his house and started shooting people who had taken refuge there. "It's called murder," the bearded priest said in Dili.

Priests and survivors claim that villagers sought refuge in the century-old Liquica church after the targeted killing of four accused pro-independence supporters in the town on Monday.

Father Rafael, who is prepared to testify before an impartial inquiry into the killings, said the attackers also tried to kill him and he was lucky to be alive. He said he managed to escape by first hiding behind a wall, and then a homemade rifle failed to fire when an attacker pointed it at him at point-blank range and pulled the trigger.

Meanwhile, an East Timorese human rights group claims that 52 people were slaughtered in the attack and their bodies possibly thrown into a nearby lake or into the sea.

The head of the Catholic Church in East Timor, Bishop Carlos Belo, said he had received a letter from the East Timor military commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, saying 25 people had been killed in the attack in the worst violence in the former Portuguese territory since the 1991 massacre of hundreds of mourners at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili.

But military officials in Jakarta claimed that only five people were killed after pro-independence supporters provoked members of the Jakarta-backed Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron) paramilitary group.

Colonel Suratman, who flew to a Besi Merah Putih rally near East Timor's border with West Timor yesterday, told foreign journalists there would be an investigation but declined further comment.

The rally was one of several organised by pro-integration groups as a show of strength in response to a call on Monday by the pro-independence resistance leader Xanana Gusmao for his supporters to launch a popular insurrection against Indonesian-backed paramilitary groups blamed for the escalating violence. While Gusmao's call for his supporters to take up arms increased tensions in East Timor it may also put him back in Jakarta's maximum security jail.

Indonesia's Justice Minister, Mr Muladi, was quoted by the Media Indonesia newspaper yesterday as saying that if Gusmao continues to make "unhelpful" statements "it is not impossible that we will return him from house arrest to Cipinang prison".

Peter Cole-Adams reports: Australia's Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, condemned yesterday "appalling" acts of violence in East Timor like that reported to have been taken place in Liquica.

But he warned that the territory's problems would not be resolved "without there being some incidents like those that we have been seeing". "That's not to excuse them," he told reporters in Adelaide. "They are appalling. I completely condemn them."

Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman, Mr Laurie Brereton, said he planned to visit Jakarta next week and hoped to be allowed to visit Gusmao.

Back to April Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99