Subject: Last Indonesian Soldiers Pulling Out From East Timor

Associated Press October 21, 1999

Last Indonesian Soldiers Pulling Out From East Timor

DILI, East Timor (AP)--A quarter-century after storming ashore in a massive invasion, the last Indonesian troops are quietly packing up and trickling out of East Timor.

Though blamed by the United Nations for inciting last month's orgy of violence that prompted the U.N. Security Council to sanction a peacekeeping force, the departing soldiers claim they are sorry to go.

"We are human beings; we have feelings, too," declared Col. Willem Rampangilei, spokesman for the dwindling force. "You can't avoid feeling sorry that East Timor is no longer part of Indonesia, but we have to carry out the orders of our government and international community."

Closing a chapter of history that resulted in the deaths of up to 200,000 East Timorese since the invasion on Dec. 7, 1975, the remaining soldiers are busy loading up equipment and furniture from their headquarters in the capital Dili.

"This is obviously leading to the eventual withdrawal of the entire garrison," said Col. Mark Kelly, chief of staff of the peacekeeping force known as Interfet. "But at this stage, we have no confirmed time frame when that will occur."

Although crowds earlier stoned soldiers driving trucks and containers onto Indonesian Navy ships in Dili harbor, onlookers milling around the gate Thursday appeared more curious than hostile.

About 900 Men Remain, Awaiting Final Pullout Orders Only about 900 men remain of a force that at its peak in the mid-1980s numbered 40,000. They are awaiting orders from Jakarta for the final pullout, Rampangilei said.

"See you in Aceh!" a youth bicycling past the main gate shouted at two dejected-looking paratroopers guarding the post. Aceh, Indonesia's westernmost province, is the site of a separatist rebellion in which thousands of civilians and soldiers have died over the years.

Tuesday, Indonesia's highest legislative body voted to annul a law incorporating East Timor into Indonesia as its 27th province, ending an attempt to integrate the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic region into the world's biggest Muslim nation.

The revocation came after four-fifths of East Timor's 850,000 citizens opted for independence in a U.N.-supervised plebiscite on Aug. 30. That sparked a rampage by pro-Jakarta militias, backed by Indonesian soldiers, which torched and looted their way through the territory. Some 250,000 people were forced to flee to the western, Indonesian-held part of Timor island.


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