Subject: Journalist killed by gunmen wearing army uniforms: witness
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 10:44:36 -0400

Journalist killed by gunmen wearing army uniforms: witness

DILI, East Timor, Sept 22 (AFP) - Gunmen wearing Indonesian army uniforms opened fire on a foreign journalist in Dili, the man's driver said Wednesday, as Australian troops recovered a mutilated body believed to be the journalist.

Sander Thoenes, a 30-year-old Dutch national who was based in Jakarta for The Financial Times, had gone missing soon after his arrival in Dili on Tuesday.

Motorcycle driver Florindo da Conceicao Araujo said he had taken Thoenes from the downtown Hotel Turismo to Becora, a known militia hotspot a few kilometres away, about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Two hundred metres away on three motorcycles there were six guys in TNI uniform with automatic guns," he told the Australian Associated Press.

"They motioned me to stop. I tried to turn (the bike) around. Then there were bullets all around us. There was 10 to 20 shots.

"I saw the journalist on the ground. It looked like he was sleeping. I saw no blood and I didn't know if he'd been hit."

The driver said he left the scene because he feared the gunmen would turn their weapons on him.

Australian soldiers recovered a body on Wednesday morning from the backyard of a nearby house. It was not known how the body had been moved from where the driver last saw it.

No formal identification had been made Wednesday, but the man was believed to be Thoenes, who had been the FT's Jakarta correspondent since September 1997.

A notebook beside the body contained the name of an army press officer and writing in English and shorthand, said one reporter who visited the scene.

Locals said there had been shooting in the area Tuesday night, but they had been too frightened to check outside until daylight.

The motorcycle driver, who returned to Dili Wednesday morning, had cuts and grazes and was clearly shaken by the incident.

He said the fact the gunmen were wearing army uniforms did not necessarily mean they were Indonesian soldiers.

Many people, especially militia, were wearing uniforms discarded by departing soldiers, he said.

Two other journalists, a British reporter and an American photographer, were ambushed near Baucau, 130 kilometres (80 miles) east of Dili, in a separate incident Tuesday.

They fled into the bush and were later rescued by Australian military forces.

Six Australian-based journalists were killed after Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975.

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