Subject: Toronto Sun: Guns and Terror
Date: Sat, 22 May 1999 10:10:34 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

The Toronto Sun

May 13, 1999 EDITORIAL/OPINION, Pg. 16

WHERE GUNS AND TERROR ARE A WAY OF LIFE

IAN TIMBERLAKE, TORONTO SUN DILI, Indonesia

We yelled for our driver to back up, to get us out of there, as the men ran toward us trying to attack our car.

The battered blue station wagon wouldn't budge. We were trapped.

"Oh, no!" someone said when the men started to pull out their guns.

I was in the front seat of the taxi between the terrified driver and Ines Lopes, a Portuguese colleague. Five other journalists were crammed into the back seat.

We had left our lunch uneaten at a restaurant last Sunday to check a report that Dili's central market had been torched.

I saw a small plume of smoke as we approached, and I warned the driver to be careful. Then suddenly the men came, running toward us and yelling.

Just outside Ines' window, one attacker pulled out a bulky black weapon. Beside the driver, another thug produced the same kind of handgun from the front of his pants.

He pointed it toward us.

Gunshots were going off around us and I thought he was going to fire into our car.

"Get down!" Ines told me.

She thought if they saw only a woman in the front seat, they might be a little calmer. But in that cramped car, there was nowhere to hide. I tried to squeeze myself under the dash but couldn't fit.

"It's going to be okay," Ines calmly reassured me. I didn't believe her. "Jesus!" I yelled.

Behind her, somebody pounded on the car as if he were trying to break the window.

I recognized the red and white colours of the Indonesian flag on the shirt of one attacker. The civilian militias who have been terrorizing this troubled territory under Indonesian rule typically wear red and white.

In the back seat, a Portuguese photographer produced a red and white piece of cloth from his camera bag. The quick-thinking manoeuvre momentarily startled an attacker trying to climb in the back door of the station wagon, he said.

The next face I saw seemed more calm. I recognized a police logo on his shirt when he came to the window. He and other cops had emerged from the crowd that attacked us.

"They're going to get us out of here," someone in the car explained.

The rifle-toting cop perched in the window beside Ines. Another cop clung to the right side of the car and a third armed man climbed onto the hood. They rode shotgun as the car sped about 100 metres north to the Dili police station.

Even there we didn't feel safe. Gunfire continued just outside the police compound where we sheltered in a small office and I ducked behind a wooden desk.

Shooting continued periodically for more than half an hour, when police arrived with a prisoner wagon to get us out of there. With several cops as our guards, we all climbed into the truck and headed to the relative safety of a local hotel.

I will leave here this week. The 800,000 people of East Timor can't. They live amid this kind of terror every day.

NOTES: Former Sun reporter Ian Timberlake is fulfilling a lifelong dream of travelling throughout Southeast Asia. His travels have taken him to strife-torn East Timor, a former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in1975 and now wracked by violence between pro- and anti-independence mobs. TheUnited Nations is to supervise a vote, in August, which will grant the EastTimorese autonomy within Indonesia or full independence.

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