|Subject: SMH: Indonesian army link to Timor
Sydney Morning Herald January 21, 2003
Indonesian army link to Timor incursions
A captured militia man has incriminated junior TNI officers, Jill Jolliffe reports from Atsabe, East Timor.
The hamlet of Tiarlelo is only a few kilometres from Atsabe, itself 25kilometres from the border with West Timor, but the rough jungle track that leads to it emphasises its isolation.
When well-armed, masked assailants struck Tiarlelo at nightfall on January 4, it was close enough for gunfire to be heard in the town, but distant enough for it to be cut off from help.
When police arrived at first light, they found one man dead and three people wounded, including two children. In a simultaneous attack at Laubuno, 14kilometres away, two were killed and several wounded. Four more bodies have been found since, leaving a death toll of seven.
The use of automatic weapons and the discovery of bullet casings from Indonesian-issue SKS rifles raised fears that the attacks represented a militia incursion from West Timor.
The arrest several days later of eight armed men in the Liquica region confirmed those fears. Testimony was given in a Dili court that seven armed groups had crossed the border to kill former resistance leaders, under orders from soldiers of the Indonesian army (TNI).
The East Timorese Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, said he was convinced there was no Indonesian Government strategy to destabilise East Timor. There might be Indonesian elements involved, but rogue elements, Mr Ramos Horta said.
"With all Indonesia's troubles, East Timor is not on its radar screen at the moment," he said. "My concern is how we can get senior officials in Jakarta to pay attention, and alert [President] Megawati [Soekarnoputri]."
To this end he called in Kristio Wahyono, head of Indonesia's diplomatic mission. The ambassador had earlier told the Herald he had travelled to Atambua, in West Timor, to consult TNI commander Lieutenant-Colonel Tjuk Agus and militia leader Joao Tavares.
"Both told me no ex-militias had crossed the border and attacked Atsabe," Mr Wahyono said. "If anyone did, there were certainly no instructions from the Indonesian military."
After the attacks the East Timorese President, Xanana Gusmao, headed an emergency meeting in Dili, after which the United Nations administrator, Kamalesh Sharma, was persuaded to take an unorthodox course.
He signed an agreement allowing the newly trained East Timor Defence Force (ETDF) to mount a counter-insurgency operation in the area - waiving accords placing the force under UN command and ignoring a clause in the Timorese constitution stating that the ETDF could not be used internally.
A week later, camouflage-clad East Timorese scoured the jungle around Atsabe for infiltrators.
A statement issued by Mr Sharma on Friday said ETDF soldiers had apprehended about 66 people identified as militia members by the local population.
The reality on the ground was different. Most of those arrested were local people who were members of Colimau 2000, a group with religious trappings previously accused of armed raids into homes to extort money.
Denounced by neighbours, they were arrested without warrant and handed over to police for transport to Dili jails.
In Lemeia Kraik, known as a Colimau stronghold, 59 people, including children, were arrested, to the disquiet of human rights observers. Of 31 Colimau members presented in court Friday, 28 were freed for lack of evidence.
The story of the men arrested in Liquica district was more worrying. It showed that militia incursions from Indonesia were involved, but backed Mr Ramos Horta's view that those orchestrating them may be junior officers.
Miguel Freitas Metan, 45, is among those remanded for 30 days on immigration, security and illegal arms charges.
Speaking in Dili prison, Metan, a native of Liquica, said he had lived at Hali-Ulun, near Atambua since 1999.
He said that on December 17 he was summoned to a meeting with low-ranking TNI officers, mostly of East Timorese origin.
He said seven militia units received instructions to cross into East Timor for guerilla actions and "groups going to Atsabe, Letefoho and Baucau had already left".
Two TNI soldiers, Tome Diogo and Henrique Moreira, led the briefing. Both wanted by the UN for crimes against humanity in the April 1999 Liquica massacre. Also present was a West Timorese sergeant-major called Frans Taek, Metan said.
He told how his unit crossed the border two days later. "It was easy. We crossed not far from the night market at Mota Ain. There was an Australian patrol, but we hid until it went past."
During the 14-day trek to Liquica his group of eight men, all originally from Liquica, had a change of heart and, realising that independent East Timor was peaceful, decided to surrender rather than go through with their attack. They gave themselves up in their home village on January 14. Members of the other six groups are still at large.
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