Compiled by Adam Jones, Ph.D.
Research Associate, Department of Political Science
University of British Columbia
C472 - 1866 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6T 1Z1
For more on gender-selective atrocities against men,
including extensive Kosovo materials, see the Gender Page of this website.
DILI, East Timor, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Raimundo Moreira's story is written in the scars that disfigure his face and his chest.
"I was taken here in Dili by the (pro-Jakarta) militia on September 12th and handed over to Indonesian army special forces," he said.
"They beat me for two days. They said I wanted independence and that I was Falantil (pro-independence fighters)."
"They burned my face and my back and my foot with cigarettes," Moreira told Reuters, pointing to the deep burn marks on parts of his body.
"They hit me in the head and face with a knife," he said, fingering those scars. "Then they beat me with an electric cable."
As Moreira removed his shirt the small crowd of onlookers gathered to hear his tale in a burned-out building in East Timor's capital of Dili gasped and turned away.
The 28-year old man's torso was an appalling cross-hatch of raised scar tissue.
Moreira said soldiers released him after two days of interrogation and beating, but not before a final indignity.
"They held me down and urinated on my wounds causing me much shame and intense pain," the man said.
He was then handed over to an Indonesian army sector commander in Dili, named Gerhan, who forbade any further beatings, treated the man's wounds and released him after two weeks of care.
"The Indonesian soldiers beat me because I wanted independence, but I am still proud to have voted for freedom," Moreira said.
"No matter what has happened to us, our determination will win. The victory is ours."
Nearly 80 per cent of the votes cast in an August 30 independence referendum in East Timor favoured breaking from Indonesian rule.
But the announcement of that result on September 4th unleashed a rampage of violence by pro-Jakarta militia and Indonesian armed forces that ended only when multinational troops landed in the territory two weeks ago.
Original caption: "TASI TOLU, EAST TIMOR - An Australian
soldier uses a video camera to record evidence of two East Timorese men
found murdered in a hole in Tasi Tolu, west of Dili, October 1.
The site, littered with flower petals by locals in a sign of respect,
was found by residents who also directed an Australian Army
team to other bodies scattered around the area, murdered within
the last two weeks by pro-Jakarta militia reacting to a vote from
independence from Indonesia. Any bodies found will be
recovered by aid and humanitarian groups soon, with the
assistance of the United Nations peacekeeping force. Photo by
Jason Reed (Reuters)."
[...] Indonesian army patrols in West Timor are reported to be threatening refugees trying to cross back into East Timor.
The French news agency AFP says two refugees who managed to return told them soldiers were stopping vehicles heading for the border and threatening to kill their occupants.
"They are saying there is going to be a war in East Timor and we cannot go back," said returnee Dominges de Santos. He added that pro-Indonesian militias were hunting down male refugees and planned to kill them all.
In recent weeks, relief workers have reported great difficulties even gaining access to refugees in West Timor and say many are living in horrifying conditions. [...]
DILI, East Timor -- Western districts of East Timor have been cleansed of their inhabitants in a systematic campaign of destruction, the commander of the multinational force (Interfet) in the territory said Monday.
As international aid workers geared up to begin repatriating refugees who fled to Indonesian-controlled West Timor, Major General Peter Cosgrove said Australian troops deployed in the border region had found numerous villages burned out and abandoned.
"There has plainly been a concerted effort to burn and deny (shelter) in that area," Cosgrove said. "It would appear that many of those villages have been depopulated."
Interfet commanders have little doubt the damage inflicted on the region was the work of anti-independence militias and the departing Indonesian military.
But what happened to the tens of thousands of people who lived in the region, as in other parts of East Timor, remains unclear.
To date, little evidence has emerged to support suggestions thousands died at the hands of pro-Indonesian militias in the violence that erupted after East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence on August 30.
To date fewer than 50 bodies have been discovered by the peacekeepers and journalists.
But there have been numerous reports of corpses being dumped at sea and a senior UN official said Monday up to half a million people remained unaccounted for. [!]
"We are aware that there are many tens of thousands up in the hills," said UN Hamnitarian Coordinator Ross Mountain.
According to figures given by the Indonesian authorities, some 250,000 East Timorese are in Indonesian-controlled West Timor and 100,000 were in Dili and other areas secured by Interfet.
Mountain said that left up to 500,000 unaccounted for when compared with East Timor's population before the August 30 vote on independence.
This figure however included a large number of Indonesian settlers who left before the vote. In addition, the pro-independence guerrilla group Fret[i]lin says some 100,000 people are located in an eastern area it now controls. [...]
Concern for the safety of refugees [in West Timor] is running high following reports the militias are active in the camps and the Indonesian military was preventing any refugees returning by road. [...]
In a small, bare concrete room surrounded by razor wire and flanked by Australian soldiers, 24-year-old Domingos Dos Santos tells of his ordeal that ended when members of the multinational force picked him up in the border town of Batugade late on Saturday.
He had just arrived from West Timor across the sealed border that is now secured on one side by Australian troops.
"The militia in Atambua are hunting out the male refugees. They want to kill them all," he said, still wide-eyed with fear.
As Australian troops rebuilt houses in the destroyed town of Balibo at the weekend and stockpiled food for the expected return of the population, Mr Dos Santos had managed to get close enough to the border to escape by pretending to be a militiaman searching vehicles.
"They [militia and Indonesian Army troops] stopped the vehicles going back across the border and threatened to kill them or if they recognised them kill them there at the border," he said.
"I got to the border yesterday and the militia were searching cars, so I pretended to search cars as well, and then slipped across the border."
That, he explained, was how he ended up in Batugade, where only three kilometres separates the Indonesian border posts manned by militia, military and the Australian Army.
Mr Dos Santos fled his home in Dili after his uncle was killed by militia on the day the independence result was announced. Like thousands of other East Timorese he ended up in the West Timorese town of Atambua, 10 kilometres over the border.
"In Atambua there was [Indonesian police] ... Kostrad, Aitarak, Saka Loromonus and Dadurus militia and military all armed with M-16s," he said, describing conditions for the thousands of East Timorese there.
"They told us they want to get everybody out of East Timor and they aren't letting them back in.
"They're saying there is going to be a war in East Timor and we can't go back until later.
"Nobody is giving us food or water."
Although Mr Dos Santos did not see any people killed in Atambua, he said that many people told him there had been a lot of people killed and their bodies thrown in the sea. [...]
The region around Balibo is still deserted.
The only vehicles on the road east to Dili are the destroyed wrecks facing west, dumped and destroyed where they broke down in the forced exodus to West Timor three weeks ago.
The only sign of life on the 100-kilometre stretch of road was one small boy.
At night, from the heights surrounding the Portuguese fort, the new Australian headquarters, thousands of cooking fires can be seen to the west as the displaced population of East Timor waits to return through the border still controlled by militia.
Hundreds of thousands of people in East Timor may be still living in forests and mountains, too frightened of militia violence to return home, say United Nations officials. [n.b. Or they may be ...]
A UN spokesman in the capital, Dili, Ross Mountain, said UN troops had come across entire towns and villages in the western districts of the province that were deserted. Officials are now trying to establish their whereabouts.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes during the wave of violence that followed the autonomy ballot in August.
Mr Mountain said aid agencies had "explored every effort" over the past few days to reach the refugees outside areas already secured by the multinational forces.
His comments came as the commander of the multi-national peacekeeping force in the territory, General Peter Cosgrove, said his troops had found more evidence of the wanton destruction inflicted on the territory.
"So far the soldiers have encountered little by way of human presence," General Cosgrove told Radio Australia. "It would appear that many of those villages have been depopulated."
Mr Cosgrove said it was obvious there had been "a concerted effort" to burn and deny shelter in the area.
The commander said the burning of houses had clearly taken place some time ago but added there was still evidence of violence.
He said he was deeply concerned at the disappearance of the civilian population. [...]
Pro-Jakarta militias are holding women and children hostage in West Timor camps while allowing male refugees across the border to forage for food, two men outside the town of Maliana claimed yesterday.
The two were walking along a river between Balibo and Maliana, near the West Timor border. They said they had been taken to West Timor with their families by militia and Indonesian army forces three weeks ago. "We are very hungry," one said. "So far we're only getting three kilos of rice per family for two weeks. That's why they are letting us come back to get food in East Timor. They have my wife and my children so I have to go back, but I don't want to."
The men said that until word spread that the multinational force was deploying in East Timor, it was usual for at least half a dozen people to be taken away in the night by militia or Indonesian military from the refugee camps, never to be seen again. [...]
[...] The region of East Timor near the border with the west was a stronghold for the anti-independence militias, and a helicopter overflight by peacekeepers today gave some idea of the destruction they wreaked on towns in the area during their rampage.
From the air, Maliana, a major market town in the central highlands 40 miles southwest of the territory's capital, Dili, appeared completely destroyed. Not a single person could be seen in the town, which once had some 15,000 inhabitants.
In nearby Batugade, most houses were reduced to empty shells with blackened timbers sticking out at crazy angles. Farm animals roamed freely through fields and rice paddies.
Peacekeepers have reached Batugade and the coastal town of Balibo and are gradually working further inland to Maliana.
Several hundred yards off Balibo, a badly decomposed body was seen floating in the sea.
Human rights workers say militiamen and Indonesian soldiers executed dozens of men they suspected of supporting the independence movement and dumped their bodies at sea.
BALIBO, East Timor, Oct. 4—More than two weeks into a military operation aimed at bringing security and much needed relief supplies to tiny, devastated East Timor, aid agency officials and military commanders are stumped by a perplexing question: Where are the people?
As Australian troops have pushed into the territory's far western district, securing the border town of Balugade and the onetime pro-Indonesian militia stronghold of Balibo, they have encountered only a handful of people--at most, about two dozen refugees who have crossed the border into Indonesia proper to scavenge for food.
Here in Balibo, once home to 15,000 people, they found exactly one local resident--an elderly woman, believed to be deaf, who was left behind when the rest of the town fled.
Many people from the western districts of East Timor and the capital, Dili, were moved by force or by fear across the border into western Timor, in Indonesia, by violence that followed an Aug. 30 vote on East Timor's independence. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other aid groups have estimated that more than 200,000 East Timorese may now be in western Timor, and they fear that many are being held against their will by militias opposing East Timorese independence.
But East Timor had a pre-crisis population of 850,000 people. Even accounting for the possibility that 200,000 or more refugees are in western Timor doesn't resolve the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of thousands [sic: hundreds of thousands] more.
"In the back of the minds of the humanitarians is this question mark," said Michel Barton, a spokesman for the U.N. Office of Humanitarian Affairs, which is coordinating the relief effort. "We think we should have been seeing more people, and we don't have an answer to that."
He added that "there's a certain amount of anxiety behind that question. There haven't been discoveries of mass graves yet. So it's a question: Where are the people? We don't know yet."
A drive today from Dili in a military convoy, part of a U.N.-backed multinational peacekeeping force sent here last month, shows the extent of the depopulation of East Timor. During more than three hours, the convoy passed through once-crowded towns and villages--Liquica, Maubara, and Fatuboro--and encountered a total of six people. What remained in each village were scenes of near-total destruction: burned remnants of houses with their roofs caved in, empty shells of shops and mangled vehicles on the roadside. The only buildings left intact are the churches.
The view from the road confirms the reports from U.N. and military officials who have made helicopter tours over the area.
Here in Balibo where nearly 900 Australian troops have taken control of a 58-square-mile area, the commander of the operation, Lt. Col. Mick Slater, said his only disappointment was "the population is gone. And we really want the population to come back and try to rebuild the local community. That's what we're here for."
His troops have scanned the surrounding hills looking for people who may have fled there to escape the violence, but so far, not a single person has been found. "The hills are empty," Slater said. "The population just isn't here."
Ross Mountain, the U.N. coordinator for humanitarian affairs, said, "One assumes that there are literally hundreds of thousands up in the hills. . . . There's 600,000 people around someplace."
They are not, so far, in Dili. Even though refugees have started flooding back into the deserted capital from the surrounding mountains, the city now has fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, about half of its original population. The eastern town of Baukau was less affected by the two-week rampage by Indonesian soldiers and militiamen, but even there the numbers don't add up. There are usually 24,000 people in Baukau, but there now are about 7,000--4,000 original inhabitants and about 3,000 displaced people from nearby areas.
Getting the refugees in western Timor to return will help resolve the question. The U.N. refugee agency and the Indonesian government in Jakarta reportedly have reached agreement to allow refugees to return to East Timor if they wish. But so far, the accord has not been implemented, and there are no signs of any movement on the ground.
"There's been no change to the number of people we see here," said Slater, the commander of the western operation.
Slater said his troops at the border have talked with the few refugees who have ventured over on brief day trips in search of food. He said the refugees generally say they must return to the border town of Atambua in western Timor because their families are still there, and that the Indonesian authorities have told them it is safer to stay in western Timor.
He said some of those who come across may actually be militiamen posing as refugee scavengers to gain intelligence on Australian army positions. On one occasion, Slater said his troops confiscated "some militia-type weapons" the supposed refugees were carrying.
One who did emerge today was a 14-year-old boy, who told the Australian soldiers a harrowing tale of how he made his way here from Oe-Cusse, the East Timorese exclave located deep inside western Timor, on the northern coast.
The traumatized boy arrived on the beach at Balugade, describing how he made his way here by posing as a militiaman, joining militia gangs and hitching rides on militia trucks. He said he was sent here by the people of the exclave to give the multinational intervention force a letter pleading for help.
The boy was flown on a helicopter to Dili for more questioning and to be allowed to hand over his letter.
"An aerial view of Maliana, a large town in southwest
East Timor October 5, shows a group of houses
that have been damaged by suspected pro-Jakarta militia
in recent weeks. A group of journalists saw a similar level of
destruction in many towns across East Timor. Photo by Paul
A body floating in the sea off the beach at the border village of Batugade was a rare sighting of a human being during an aerial reconnaissance flight over the western part of East Timor yesterday.
As two Australian military helicopters swooped over the towns of Balibo, Batugade and Maliana, some passengers said they had seen groups of people in the mountains surrounding what is usually a densely populated area.
But the overriding impression was one of eerie desertion as the helicopters flew over destroyed settlements and empty roads, searching for communities of displaced East Timorese believed still to be hiding in the region.
As the multinational force, Interfet, widens its presence in the west of the territory, humanitarian organisations say they are concerned about the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands of displaced East Timorese.
Ross Mountain, the UN humanitarian coordinator for East Timor, said as many as 300,000 refugees are still unaccounted for. "The missing refugees are a question we are very concerned to find the answer to. There are presumably tens of thousands still in the mountains, but we are certainly not seeing the numbers add up."
The latest UN figures estimate that of the 890,000 population thought to live in the territory before the August 30 referendum favouring independence from Indonesia, 500,000 have been displaced in the rampage by pro-Jakarta troops and militias after the vote. Of these, 150,000 are believed to be in camps in Indonesian West Timor, though previous estimates have put this figure as high as 250,000. Reports from the East Timor capital, Dili, and the eastern cities of Los Palos and Daucau, where Interfet and aid agencies have established a presence, account for around 100,000 of the displaced. The remainder are missing, possibly hiding in the mountains of central East Timor, or in West Timor from where the refugee agency UNHCR is negotiating their safe return with Indonesian authorities. [Note: Out of curiosity, given that these totals account for the Timorese in Dili and vicinity, as well as those under UN and guerrilla protection in the eastern part of the territory, where exactly does the UN find a further 390,000 non-displaced people in East Timor?]
In Balibo, where 1,000 Australian troops have set up their headquarters as part of Operation Lavarack to secure the border and western region, no inhabitants were visible among the ruins of the devastated towns.
It was a similar scene throughout the region. Maliana, the centre of this once-prosperous area, is rubble now. The only movement came from the smoke and flames of small and apparently normal bushfires.
As the rainy season approaches, bringing the increased risk of disease and making roads impassable, concern is mounting for people hiding in the mountains. Aid agencies want to move around East Timor as soon as possible, but say they are being hampered by the cautious approach of the Interfet mission which in two weeks has secured towns along the northern coast but has not moved southwards. [...]
MALIANA, East Timor, Oct 6 (AFP) -- The few people who greeted the first international peacekeepers to arrive in this devastated and deserted town, on Wednesday recounted tales of terror, massacres and forced deportations.
Some of the 15,000 population were killed on the spot, many others were forced to go to West Timor, where some were reportedly killed, and the remainder fled to find refuge in the neighbouring hills, residents told AFP.
Every night, they said, the TNI (Indonesian armed forces) and pro-Jakarta militias gathered people in the police station, blindfolded them, then killed them, either by shooting, or with knives.
There were at least 200 killings of [this] sort, the residents said. They started on September 8, after some 500 Indonesian police, soldiers and militia members had carried out an investigation into which of the town's residents had voted for independence in the August 30 ballot.
Paulo Maya, 38, said he saw 20 people being killed in the city stadium. They ranged in age from seven to 40.
Many were deported to West Timor and slaughtered there, said some of the people who emerged from the hills to greet the Australian peacekeepers on their arrival from their base at Balibo, west of here.
Asked how they knew the deportees had been killed, one replied: "Because refugees came back from West Timor and said they (the deportees) were killed as soon as they arrived there in trucks."
Queried also about the absence of bodies in either the stadium or the police station, where they said the killings allegedly took place, always at night, they said the bodies too were taken by truck over the border.
Said Oliviu Reis Mendoza: "It was a reign of terror." He said he lost two brothers, Barbos Suares, 20 and Domingus Pereira, 37.
Paulo Maya said he lost his father and mother in the killings, while Humberto Alves, 34, said his mother, father, wife and three children were deported across the border.
UN officials, baffled by the tens of thousands of missing from East Timor's depopulated towns since last month's savage militia rampage, have no idea how many people are hiding in the mountains outside them.
In Dili, the capital, only some 40 bodies have been found so far, some of them dismembered, leading many to doubt reports of large-scale massacres.
The official population of East Timor, according to official Indonesian figures, was around 850,000 last year.
But starting in January, tens of thousands of Indonesian merchants, civil servants and settlers started pouring out of the territory heading home in fear of bloodshed if the territory voted for independence.
An estimated 250,000 people are in West Timor refugee camps, many taken there against their will.
And in Dili, the Red Cross estimates some 64,000 of the population have returned since the peacekeepers arrived on September 20. [...]
Manuel Maya, 45, said he believed the arrival of the Australians would encourage people to come out of hiding.
"I think things will get better now. The word will spread and many, many people will come down from the hills."
But the joy was mixed with regret that the peacekeepers had taken so long to reach them.
"I've been sleeping in the hills but now I feel safe because the soldiers have come," said 23-year-old Luciu Americu. "I don't know why it's taken them so long to get here. There haven't been any militia here since September 22."
The relative ease with which journalists reached the town earlier this week has led to criticism that the Australian-led peace force has been too slow in securing outlying areas. [...]
[...] The confidence of the peacekeeping forces was tested only when the militia defector, Silvestre, arrived. He walked across the jungle, he said, and told the troops who found him that he was forced to join a militia called Besi Merah Putih--Red and White Iron--in the days after the independence referendum.
"People turned up and threatened everyone and burned down their houses and told them if they didn't go to Atambua [in western Timor] they would be killed," said Silvestre, 23, through an Australian military interpreter.
The camps in Atambua, he said, are like armed prisons. "During the day, it's fairly normal, but at night, there are members of BMP and Aitarak [another militia group] walking around carrying weapons. . . . At night, they kill and rape people."
A few nights ago, Silvestre said, militia leaders Tavares and Eurico Guterres "called everybody together and said there would be an attack. . . . They planned to kill every white man in Balibo." He told the Australians that there were 10,000 militiamen at the border, "all very well armed," said the interpreter, Maj. David Kilcullen.
Aid workers travelled today, Wednesday, 45 kms west from Dili to Liquisa where they found thousands of displaced hiding in the surrounding hills, still afraid to return to their homes.
Liquisa’s original population was estimated at 50,000. Staff from UNHCR and other agencies located groups of displaced people reported to be between 15,000 and 20,000 strong outside the town.
Liquisa itself remains largely deserted and many buildings have been burned. Damaged buildings, along with others that remain intact, have been looted.
Several displaced people who spoke to UNHCR said that they would not return to their homes until Interfet troops established an overnight presence in the town.
The Timorese said that many of the town’s residents were chased across the border into West Timor by anti-independence militia. They suspect missing family members and neighbors were taken to the towns of Atambua and Atapupu. Some of the displaced told UNHCR that residents fled elsewhere in East Timor when violence first erupted in Liquisa, thinking that larger towns like Dare and Dili would be safer.
Most of Liquisa’s population moved to the hills between September 15 and 19 and have since been living off wild fruit. Aid workers reported that many among the displaced are suffering from diarrhoea and malaria, but also detected 18 cases of leprosy.
The assessment mission continued to the nearby village of Luidapar and to Maubere, another 20 kms west of Liquisa. Mission members found both similarly deserted. The few people in the streets of Maubere told UNHCR that many inhabitants are in Atambua.
Thursday, two UNHCR staff members will travel to Ermera, also in the western part of East Timor, to assess the situation there.
In a sign of an improving security climate in Interfet-controlled areas, humanitarian convoys will from tomorrow, Thursday, be able to travel the road linking Dili with Manatuto, Baucau and Los Palos without military escort by peacekeeping troops.
In Dili, UNHCR and NGOs have completed preparations for the first return of East Timorese from West Timor. Returnees who are not able to move immediately to their homes will be helped by aid workers to set up temporary shelters in the stadium. Other facilities will be available for groups who arrive near nightfall.
UNHCR expects that most of those who have volunteered to return from West Timor will want to move directly to their homes. Staff in West Timor will select only Dili residents for the first repatriation flights until conditions and transportation allow for the return of inhabitants of other areas.
More than 230,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor camps are being pressed to declare whether they want to return home or stay in Indonesia.
Jakarta's Ministry of Transmigration has been preparing a resettlement plan to absorb more than 250,000 East Timorese, with promises of two hectares of land and a house.
International aid agencies in Kupang, West Timor's capital, are concerned that with intimidation, disappearances and political killings routine in the camps, now is not the time to ask the refugees to make such crucial choices.
An officer with the newly established Kupang office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said: "We want [the refugees] to be well informed, to know what to expect if they return home, to know what kind of guarantees for their safe return and transportation can be provided. That is clearly not the case at the moment."
Mr Kenneth McClean, the director of Catholic Relief Services in Kupang, was concerned that "with armed militias still in camps, refugees would be afraid of opting to return home, fearing that they would expose themselves as independence supporters".
The Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs has distributed about 50,000 registration cards, one for each household in the camps. The results for Kupang districts were already being tabulated on Wednesday.
The head of each refugee family is required to nominate its preference: to return to East Timor; to stay in West Timor or neighbouring regions; or to move elsewhere in Indonesia.
On Saturday refugees held in a sports stadium in Kupang were among the first to be registered in a process administered by Indonesian soldiers, who gave red cards to those who wished to return, and blue cards to those who chose to stay, according to an Indonesian non-government organisation.
Mr John Campbell, a lecturer from the Protestant University of Kupang, saw this as a "deeply flawed process which could be used by pro-integration groups, if the numbers of refugees opting to stay exceed those who want to return. Whatever this survey represents, this is in no way a referendum on the referendum."
One priest in Atambua said: "The only way to make sure you really know who wants to return is to have UNHCR do private interviews with all the refugees."
Many aid agencies wonder why the authorities are in such a rush. They have begun a crash building program to create new settlements, co-ordinated between four ministries and with land already allocated.
The Indonesian authorities have authorised the first UN flight taking refugees from Kupang back to East Timor, and about 180 people are expected to travel today.
Church sources believe the military has supplied the militia with a hit list of about 300 independence supporters, many of whom are expected to be on that first flight today.
Original caption: "DILI, EAST TIMOR - A woman and her child cry
after they landed at Dili airport, October 8. Some 90 East Timorese
refugees were returned by plane to the territory after having been
taken by Indonesian authorities to West Timor during
pro-Indonesia militia violence. POOL/Photo by Rick Rycroft (Reuters)"
Women and children wept and one man kissed the ground as the first group of 91 East Timorese refugees arrived home from refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor yesterday.
"We are so happy. We are crying because we've come back to the fatherland and, for the many people we have left behind," said one teenage girl.
Their arrival capped days of frustrating negotiations between officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Indonesian authorities in Kupang.
An agreement has now been reached for at least two evacuation flights daily from West Timor, UNHCR officials said. A second flight carrying another 90 refugees was expected in Dili late yesterday.
A United States State Department official, watching the arrival, said news of the successful repatriation would probably trickle back to the West Timor camps which, he said, were awash with militia propaganda alleging Australian atrocities against East Timorese.
"Right now the only information they are getting is from the militia, and based on that they are not likely to come back quickly."
About 250,000 East Timorese remain in West Timor, many crammed into squalid refugee camps controlled by the same militia responsible for the devastation in their homeland.
Many were ordered out of their homes at gunpoint, herded into trucks or ships and deposited across the border in an Indonesian military operation that followed the landslide vote for independence on August 30.
The UNHCR team leader in Kupang, Mr Craig Sanders, said: "I would describe their physical condition as fairly precarious. A lot of people have been living outdoors without access to sanitation."
The first group of returnees were mostly women and children from the Dili area, many looking exhausted and gaunt.
As they filed down the ramp of the cargo plane, Australian troops provided a protective cordon as one orange-beret officer from a detachment of Indonesian Air Force special troops tried to photograph the refugees.
The refugees were then taken to their temporary home at Dili's football stadium, where about 1,500 displaced people are sheltering.
Dili: Slowly, and in the most unexpected places, the lost people of East Timor are beginning to emerge and place themselves in the care of Interfet troops and aid agencies.
It is still only a trickle, and the whereabouts of up to 400,000 people who fled the purges of bloody pro-Indonesian militia are yet to be found.
British Gurkha troops on patrol discovered one lot of 1,600 refugees hiding in caves on the far eastern tip of the territory. They had just three days of food left, and their only water pump was broken. Urgent medical supplies are being organised.
In Suai, near the border with West Timor, news has spread by bush telegraph that the Australians and others are now in control after initial bloody clashes with the militia.
A group of about 30 who arrived in the battered town - for months a militia stronghold - said they and the many others they had left behind in the hills urgently needed food and medical help.
"There are thousands living in the hills," said Mr Albert Montz, 22.
"Many people are sick and everyone is hungry. We need help as quickly as possible." [...]
Lospalos, East Timor -- In the once-thriving town of Manatuto, 50 kilometres east of Dili, the East Timorese capital, small groups of people pick over the remains of their homes.
As in dozens of other towns, virtually every structure was reduced to ashes by Indonesian soldiers and militia loyal to Jakarta after the overwhelmingly pro-independence results in the Aug. 30 plebiscite.
"We have no food and medicine, so we come here every day to look for help," said Manuel da Santos, who returns every night to where his family is hidden in the hills above Manatuto. "Sometimes the [aid] trucks come here. They stop and look at us and talk to us but always they keep going on the road."
Seventeen days into the aid operation, with more than 6,000 international troops on the ground, the badly needed housing, food and medical supplies have not reached places such as Manatuto or Baucau, three hours east of Dili and the key transit point for the eastern half of the island.
Instead, thousands of tonnes of aid earmarked for the worst-hit regions remain in warehouses in Dili and Darwin, Australia.
The pace of the Australian-led international force's movements has sparked growing frustration among aid groups, military officers and, ominously, East Timor's powerful Falantil rebels, the military arm of the pro-independence National Council for Timorese Resistance.
"The situation is this: we've got about three weeks until the rainy season effectively shuts us out of the areas east of here and with the pace of movement now, we're taking a real risk with these people's lives," said a senior official working for the United Nations Aid Mission in East Timor, which is responsible for delivering aid to the devastated region east of Baucau.
"Despite repeated representations to Interfet [International Forces, East Timor], they refuse to give us the green light. We cannot proceed to help these people until such time as they officially declare the area safe. But all the information from . . . [the hard-hit areas] in the past week is that there are no militia active in the area. So what are we doing here?"
The threat of militia attacks on the border between East and West Timor was realized Wednesday afternoon with the ambush of an Interfet convoy. However, militia members in the east are surrendering daily to priests and nuns and to Falantil rebels, who have fought the Indonesian army since Jakarta invaded nearly 25 years ago.
Among them were 17 members of Team Alpha, the militia responsible for the murders of 10 people, including five clerics and a journalist, near the hamlet of Lautem on Sept. 25. They are now being held in Dili.
Meanwhile, the lack of humanitarian aid meant that the treatment of two young brothers injured by a grenade they found at a Lospalos army barracks went ahead without the help of morphine or painkillers. One of the boys, a 12-year-old, died from shock while being sent to Dili by helicopter. Only the unexpected presence of a unit of Philippine Special Forces Rangers allowed him to be moved out.
"Maybe if we had more supplies we could have saved him," a nurse said the following day. "Or maybe he would have died anyway. We will never know. All we know is that there is not enough medicine here."
The mission's slow pace has also frustrated military officers. A senior British officer recounted a "shouting match" that ensued at Interfet headquarters when news arrived that a group of British Gurkha soldiers had freed 4,000 people who had been trapped by a handful of militia in the port town of Com last week.
Greeted as heroes by the people, the Gurkha unit, which also detained several militia members, has been attacked in private for acting without orders, the officer said. "Now they're trying to lock 'em down in Dili even though everyone knows they did the right thing."
More troublesome for the Interfet command is the growing unease among Falantil members.
Welcomed at first by Interfet as allies who play an important role in distributing humanitarian aid, helping people return to their homes and securing the state against West Timor-based militias, relations have soured in recent days.
In an interview with journalists at his camp outside Manatuto, one Falantil commander described aid workers as "worse than tourists" because little in the way of assistance has arrived.
Also grating on the patience of the rebels, who endured years of hardship in their fight against Indonesian occupation, is Interfet's continued insistence that they turn over their weapons.
While soldiers and UNAMET staff turn a blind eye to the grenades and semi-automatic weapons the Falantil carry, the international force's mandate includes a clause that calls for the disarmament of all civilians, including the rebels.
"This will never happen," says Rev. Joseph Vattaparranbil, who deals daily with the Falantil in the area around Lospalos. "They have fought so long they are not about to turn over their guns now."
The young East Timorese man poked through the dying fire to expose the charred remains of a spine. Next to the fire was the blackened frame of a chair with metal wire around it.
"A man was stabbed and then tied to this chair and burned alive," he says.
This is Cassa, a village in East Timor's south-west and until last Sunday the headquarters of one of the most vicious of the militias that have terrorised the region since November.
In the centre of the village next to a football field is the house of Cancio Lopes de Carvalho, head of the Mahidi militia, accused of burning and looting local villages and killing or deporting their residents to Indonesian West Timor.
According to a gang of young men who hid in the mountains around the village to avoid being forced out by the departing militiamen, Cancio and a band of 200, armed with about 80 automatic weapons, finally left Cassa on Sunday.
"They used 14 trucks to get out, taking with them 500 people from around the area. They also had seven motorcycles and six UN cars and headed west towards the border," says Amandio de Jesus, 23, who led 50 young men out of the village and into hiding in the mountains.
"The militia promised that after they dropped our families in West Timor, they would come back and kill those who did not want to go."
Now Cancio's militia is at large and no one appears to know whether the fighters are still in East Timor or across the border in West Timor. The west remains part of Indonesia, whose armed forces and their militia proxies terrorised East Timor after the territory voted for independence from Jakarta on August 30.
On Wednesday this week, a small Australian-led reconnaissance unit - part of Interfet, the UN-backed international force patrolling East Timor - stopped a militia convoy of trucks in the Cassa area.
After questioning, they took an undisclosed number of the convoy's occupants to a location near the West Timor border and released them in the hope they would cross. Later the same Australian soldiers came under fire from another militia group and shot dead two of the attackers.
No one is sure if it was Cancio's convoy that was involved in either of these attacks and, despite the news of his apparent departure, the country around his stronghold continues to live in terror.
In the town of Ainaro, where almost every building has been razed, most of the 4,000 residents have fled into the mountains. The town is silent. A few pro-independence Falintil guerrillas have taken over the mayor's destroyed office, but they disappear into alleys with their guns when foreigners appear.
In the only untouched building in the town's seminary, a doctor runs clinics behind barricaded doors and without medicine. Four of his patients are in urgent need of evacuation after being shot two weeks ago in a militia attack on a nearby village which claimed 12 lives. One of them is a pregnant woman shot four times, twice in the stomach.
Manuel, a resident who has come back for the day, says hundreds of refugees are waiting for Interfet to station a force in the area.
"We have food for only one more week in the mountains and the rains will come soon," he says. The terror extends beyond Ainaro. A few miles down the road, on the way to Cancio's village, there is evidence of his group's handiwork. On a clifftop above a leafy gorge, two large bloodstains mark an execution site. At the foot of the cliff lie two bodies.
Down the road, houses on either side have been burned to the ground.
On Sunday, as Cancio's convoy headed towards West Timor, the militiamen went looking for food. The foraging expedition took them through the nearby village of Hataudo where, local people say, they had burned houses and shot dead six villagers in three previous attacks.
"They stopped their cars, took food and started shooting," says Marcos Ramos, a local man who fled into the jungle. "They killed a woman and cut off her head, leaving it on an oil drum."
Without the permanent presence of multinational troops to guard them, residents remain too scared to return home to begin the slow work of rebuilding their lives.
East Timorese Leader Xanana Gusmao
speaks in Melbourne, Australia, 11 October 1999.
Photo by Will Burgess/Reuters
MELBOURNE, Australia, Oct. 11 -- East Timor's resistance leader Xanana Gusmao appealed to Indonesia Monday to free the tens of thousands of displaced East Timorese from the "concentration camps" of West Timor.
He also made a personal plea to the Indonesian parliament's newly appointed chairman, Amien Rais, to halt the persecution of thousands of Timorese residents in Indonesia and shut down the Kopassus special forces whom he branded "the real criminals" of East Timor. [...]
He said more than 230,000 East Timorese had been taken to camps in Atambua, Kefa, Kupang, Alor, Wetar and Kisar where the men were selectively murdered, leaving only women, children and the elderly. He described them as "concentration camps."
More than 4,000 Timorese in Java, Bali, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi were being persecuted and forced into hiding, with death threats making their lives unbearable. [...]
DILI, East Timor (Reuters) - The United Nations said Wednesday it had uncovered no evidence to support allegations that pro-Jakarta militia engaged in mass murder in East Timor.
"We've heard horrendous stories for which so far there's not a shred of evidence," Michel Barton, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) in Dili told Reuters.
"There's no evidence so far of very large massacres. There have been murders. There have been terrible things that have happened here.
"But we don't believe that people in their thousands have been killed and their bodies buried or thrown in the sea. If this had been the case we would have found evidence of this by now and none has been found."
Miltia groups rampaged through East Timor last month, destroying virtually every city, town and hamlet after the population voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in a U.N.-supervised referendum.
About 400,000 of East Timor's 890,000 people remain unaccounted for [repeated question: where to you get 490,000 "accounted-for"?]. Aid officials say some are dead but the vast majority remain in hiding in the hills, awaiting assurances that it's safe to return to their homes. [...]
DILI, East Timor, Oct 13 (AFP) - No evidence has yet been unearthed of large-scale mass killings in East Timor during the pro-Jakarta militia rampage here, a UN official said Wednesday.
"We have not found evidence of massacres so far," said Michel Barton, spokesman for the UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance (OHCA).
"In most cases when we hear horrendous stories of huge massacres, we may find two or three bodies buried," Barton said.
He said there had obviously been murders, but was not able to put a figure on how many bodies had been found since international peacekeepers came in on September 20 to quell the violence in the wake of the August 30 vote for independence.
"There have been murders, there have been terrible things that happened here. But we don't believe that people in their thousands have been killed and their bodies buried or thrown into the sea.
"If this had been the case we would have found evidence by now. Presumably all the missing people are in West Timor" or still hiding in the mountains of East Timor.
A senior UN official said last week that hundreds of thousands of East Timorese remained unaccounted for, considering the official 1998 population figure of some 850,000.
Some 260,000 fled or were pushed into neighbouring West Timor, and another 100,000 or so were in Dili at the time he spoke. Tens of thousands of Indonesian residents and civil servants left before the August 30 vote.
But to date only some 50 bodies, some of them dismembered, have been discovered by international peacekeepers and journalists in the parts of the country that have been secured.
Barton suggested that reports often exaggerated the extent of the killings, citing a report by one foreign journalist that 40 bodies had been stuffed in a well in a Dili suburb, when in fact only one was found.
"Stories tend to be exaggerated which is apparently a traditional phenomenon in this country."
He said investigations would continue when UN civilian police reestablished a sizeable presence in the territory.
UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) spokesman David Wimhurst said Wednesday 47 civilian police were now back in East Timor. Two were in Liquisa, 24 at Baucau and the rest in Dili.
Ten more are expected to arrive Thursday to be deployed to Baucau from where they will cover the entire eastern region.
Wimhurst added the UN now also had 51 military liaison officers in East Timor.
"We're getting back up to speed and restablishing our presence, particularly in the regions, which is extremely important," he said.
Meanwhile Ian Martin, the official representative of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, arrived back in Dili after a series of meetings in New York about the eventual transition process from Interfet to a UN peacekeeping force.
He was meeting Wednesday with UNAMET officials and Interfet commander Major General Peter Cosgrove before heading to Darwin on Thursday for discussions with independence leader Xanana Gusmao.
Gusmao, the man most likely to be independent East Timor's first leader, has said he wants to return to East Timor as soon as possible to help set up a transitional administration in the devastated territory.
[Comment: The craven U.N., which so nearly abandoned the East Timorese until shamed into maintaining a symbolic presence in Dili by the rebellion of a handful of its staff, now sits on its comfortable perch in that same city, surveying a known territory perhaps 1/10th that of East Timor as a whole, and confidently proclaims to similarly Dili-bound journalists that the hundreds of thousands of unaccounted-for are either in the camps in West Timor (holiday camps, presumably) or hiding in the hills -- in any case, nothing to get worked up about. Meanwhile, there are plenty of "shreds of evidence" littering Dili and surrounding areas, consistent testimonies of gender-selective killings and associated terrorism, and the eyewitness statements of reputable international observers that the refugee camps in West Timor exhibit a massive disproportion of adult women to men.
If the stories of largescale gender-selective killings and "disappearances" are fabrications, why would one concoct a story of the murder and mass murder of adult men? The death of women, children, and the elderly is much more likely to arouse widespread sympathy (and condemnation of the perpetrator), as virtually every culture knows. Instead of demanding clarification from the Indonesian government as to the fate of the missing Timorese, instead of pressing the INTERFET forces for rapid access to the 90 percent of East Timor where the U.N. fears to tread, we have smug generalizations and the casual writing-off of up to half a million people (two-thirds of the total population), all of whom are "probably" okay somewhere or other.
It is fervently to be hoped that this best-case scenario is right: that the vast majority of Timorese, and of battle-age males in particular, succeeded in reaching sanctuary in the hills, or are miraculously safe in the West Timor camps. But the trend in testimony from the camps is plain. The aerial tours of the western half of East Timor, meanwhile, have turned up a wasteland.
Note also that in Dili and elsewhere, we witnessed a relatively prompt return by "vanguard" forces of males, "scouting parties" for the return of the larger community. These men arrived even when the situation along the coast was still extremely tense and uncertain. Where are they across the remainder of the territory, now weeks into the INTERFET occupation? Spooky, no? Worth investigating, perhaps, and worth considering the active possibility of a less favourable outcome, especially in the light of known trends in other conflict situations around the world.
The inattention to the situation in the West Timor camps is the most scandalous of all. The UNHCR website, while rigorously tabulating the hundreds of refugees being flown back to Dili, is providing no information whatsoever on the gender breakdown of the returnees, or of those remaining in the camps. Are the men genuinely underrepresented, and how massively? With the exception of a lone Globe and Mail front-page story, no media outlet I know of has bothered to ask the question. To post these updates and bulletins from thousands of miles' distance is thus to work with the merest "shreds" of information, gleaned from media and NGOs that have largely given up pursuing the story.]
[Note: Again provided as background on the veracity of atrocity accounts; not as an indication of gender-selective atrocities.]
SUAI, East Timor (AP) - Australian peacekeepers on Thursday investigated bloodstains, bullet holes and two human skeletons found at two Roman Catholic churches where the Vatican says pro-Indonesian militiamen killed more than 100 people.
The peacekeepers said evidence found at the Ave Maria and Nossa Senhora de Fatima churches, as well as accounts from witnesses, indicate some victims died while trying to flee the gunmen.
"This was clearly a massacre," said Lt. Damian Hill, an Australian peacekeeper who interviewed dozens of residents after they returned to this southwestern town from the mountains where they sought refuge during the violence.
However, only two human skeletons have been found so far at the churches, where the Vatican has accused the militiamen of killing dozens of civilians, including three priests.
East Timorese independence movement leaders and human rights activists have accused the militias of massacring civilians and then disposing of the bodies.
The search in Suai is part of an effort by peacekeepers and relief agencies to try to determine the scale of the slaughter that followed a vote for independence in an Aug. 30 referendum.
No one disputes that the vote set off a rampage by Indonesian forces and allied militias that destroyed many cities and towns and left hundreds of thousands citizens homeless.
But the number of victims found so far is nowhere near the thousands of dead that international organizations and Timorese activists estimated were killed.
U.N. and peacekeeping officials have said the true scale of the killings will only be known once they gain control of more of East Timor and search the many destroyed towns.
So far, about 8,000 peacekeepers have been deployed in Dili, the capital, and several other major cities, but they have not reached remote villages and hamlets. [Note: Almost the totality of the Australian force is now bogged down in a handful of positions on the West Timorese border, as Indonesia rattles its sabres on the other side.]
Australian Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove, the peace force commander, proposed Thursday that a buffer zone be created along the border of East Timor and Indonesian-controlled West Timor to prevent further clashes between his men and Indonesian forces.
Reacting to an Associated Press report, Cosgrove said dozens of militiamen who fled to West Timor after the peacekeepers arrived may be returning to East Timor to try to launch a guerrilla campaign against the peacekeepers.
At a news conference in Dili, Cosgrove said his forces have now established a headquarters in Suai, which was a major militia stronghold before the referendum.
"We're starting to find bodies, bodies that have been dead for some time," said Cosgrove, adding that only about six had been found so far. "We have found some (graves) that contain more than one person. But we haven't found graves with hundreds that have sometimes been referred to."
Streaks of blood and at least 60 bullet holes found on scaffolding surrounding the 70-foot-tall steeple at the Ave Maria church indicate some people were killed while trying to escape the Sept. 6 attack.
"It looks like people were shot from two separate points below while trying to escape up the scaffolding," said Lt. Troy Mayne of Australia.
Looking at upper floors of the steeple, the peacekeepers found a rosary, three M-16-type bullets and a large blood stain.
At the neighboring Nossa Senhora de Fatima church, two sets of burned bones were found.
Bloodstains in a muddy stairwell also suggest corpses may have been dragged down a flight of stairs from rooms where victims were hiding during the attack, and later disposed of.
East Timorese in the troubled western town Maliana have taken Australian soldiers to what they say is a mass dumping site for bodies.
Locals accuse the Indonesian military and militia members of throwing 14 bodies in a creek.
The Third Battalion soldiers have been in Maliana just four days but some already have a sense of just how brutal this town has been.
Locals returning from hideouts in the mountains have taken soldiers to a creek north of the border town and shown them clothes scattered in four places at the water's edge.
They insist this was the dumping site for bodies after militia members, Indonesian soldiers and police executed 14 people on or about September 8.
They claim many had been sheltering in Maliana's police headquarters only to find the police turned against them.
The bodies of six people who died violently have been washed up on the shores of East Timor.
The head of the international force in East Timor, Major General Peter Cosgrove, says the bodies were sighted in the area of Suai, 110 kilometres south-west of Dili.
He says the bodies had been dead for some time.
Suai, which is in ruins, was the scene last week of clashes between international peacekeepers and pro-Jakarta militia.
General Cosgrove says he has heard that bodies are also washing up near Batugade near the West Timor border.
By 9am the crowd outside the stadium in Dili is swelling in expectation of the arrival of the day's first refugees being flown back from West Timor.
Half an hour later three trucks carrying about 60 refugees pull up. Australian soldiers hold back families straining to find relatives, and in the heated atmosphere many of the returning refugees begin to cry.
The man at my side is John Vincente, a pro-independence youth leader from Maliana who has just returned from West Timor. He writes down the names of 10 colleagues murdered by the militia and Indonesian Army during the worst of the violence.
He says he escaped their fate because after being taken to West Timor he was saved by the courage and generosity of Indonesian priests.
"It was very difficult for me because the militia and the military had my name and my photo," he says. "I was in Atambua for two days, where young men are being killed at night by militia and intelligence soldiers. But I made it to Kupang, where I felt safe because I was protected in the parish of a local priest."
Such stories are increasingly being heard, now that an estimated 260,000 East Timorese deported to West Timor are being returned by the UNHCR.
Pedro, who was afraid to give his full name, was forced to flee Dili during the violence that followed the announcement of the result of the August 30 independence ballot.
As he and his family joined many others seeking protection at the local military base, they passed dead bodies on the road.
Pedro stayed outside the base for two nights before moving to police headquarters, where he and others were flown by the Indonesian military to Kupang.
When he arrived, the military took his group of 150 refugees to a camp 30 kilometres from the centre of town. But Pedro persuaded the commanders to return him to Kupang, to the shelter of a Catholic organisation.
His previous activities in East Timor meant he was a target for the militias, but he was saved twice by a priest, who ordered militias out of the compound.
Pedro says not only the church is sheltering East Timorese. "The ordinary people in West Timor are sick of the militia. ... all around Kupang ... people are taking in East Timorese."
Pedro, however, learnt that many refugees had not been lucky. His wife returned from shopping trips with information of camps where the women were too afraid to talk after the men had been taken at night by militias.
He fears for those in Atambua, where the UNHCR is still negotiating for safe access to some 200 refugee camps. [Note: Fiddling, burning ...]
Pedro believes that refugees will be made to pay for each militiaman killed in East Timor by Interfet troops.
He said: "When the militia return from these attacks, they are very angry and they will take it out on those people."
[...] Aid workers from several agencies returned to Dili Thursday evening after a three-day assessment mission through towns in western East Timor. The group travelled first to Batou Gade, a border town on the north shore, driving through areas that were almost devoid of inhabitants. In the 50 kms between Dili and Atabae they encountered only a few dozen inhabitants and estimate that 80% of homes and villages have been destroyed. Farther along, in the final stretch before Badou Gade, villages were simply deserted. The few people UNHCR was able to speak with said almost all area residents were taken to West Timor.
The mission found similarly empty villages between Batou Gade and Maliana, to the southeast. There, around 1,000 people have returned to their homes. They told UNHCR that an estimated 4,000 more displaced are still in the mountains, while many others from the town had been deported. They spoke specifically of around 25,000 people who were taken to camps around the village of Turiskain, in the area due east of Atambua, in West Timor.
From Maliana the mission made its way through the mountains to Bobonaro, meeting several hundred displaced walking down from the hills to Maliana. Residents were also returning to Bobonaro itself, due to the presence of Interfet troops who were deploying at the same time as the aid workers’ visit. Mission members estimated the current population of Bobonaro at 5,000.
The mission made a final stop at Ermera. They noted people returning progressively to many small mountain villages and that far fewer homes – around 20% – in this zone had been damaged or destroyed. Even so, villagers told UNHCR they knew of hundreds of people who had been taken to makeshift camps in West Timor.
Humanitarian agencies plan to conduct a similar extended assessment of the area around the southwestern town of Suai. For the time being, security conditions do not permit this.
Original Caption: "BORBARA, EAST TIMOR - East Timorese men stand next to a well after finding the bones of at least four people inside it near the village of Borbara October 14, the likely victims of attacks by pro-Jakarta milita following a vote for independence from Indonesia. Dozens of bodies are suspected to be dumped in the area as witnesses said up to 100 locals were brought to the scene by militias in the days after the August 30 referendum for independence. Photo by Jason Reed (Reuters)."
Australian paratroopers in East Timor have found four graves, along with compelling evidence supporting claims of a massacre of 14 independence supporters by pro-Jakarta militia and their Indonesian police and army allies in south-west Maliana.
Two piles of clothes, charred wallets, a pair of thongs floating on the lagoon and discarded sarongs mark the site of what local people claim is the killing ground of 14 people, including the Maliana leader of the pro-independence National Council for Timorese Resistance, Manuel de Oliviera.
If verified, the site could prove to be the biggest killing ground discovered since the arrival in East Timor of an Australian-led peacekeeping force on September 20.
Military shell casings were found near the burnt wallets a short distance from the lagoon.
Local people are attempting to drain the pond and recover human remains. They have told Major Dave Rose, from 3 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, that they found four graves holding children murdered by militia, and 14 bodies including de Oliviera's.
"Locals knew they were there. After four days they sent out search parties. The deaths occurred on the 8th or 9th of September," Major Rose said.
In Suai, 110 kilometres south-west of Dili, the bodies of six people who died violently have been washed up, Interfet said yesterday.
The head of the International Force for East Timor, Major-General Peter Cosgrove, said: "In Suai, where we took into custody some militia, we are starting to find bodies.
"The bodies had been dead for some time. They are not in huge numbers but are people who have obviously died a violent death." [...]
[Note: Finally, and thankfully, a sharp critique of the U.N.'s pathetic performance in investigating atrocities, which has not stopped it from blithely dismissing those atrocities from the comfort of Dili.]
When Australian troops on Thursday recovered the mutilated bodies of six East Timorese people, washed up on a beach near Suai in East Timor's west, they could do no more than note and videotape the injuries, before burying the remains in shallow graves.
They had to do the same when the charred remains of 10 people - eight skulls and two corpses - were recovered from a burnt out truck, abandoned in bushland near the municipal dump outside Dili in late September.
But they are marking the graves and keeping records of all burials and other evidence associated with each corpse in preparation for the arrival of specialists from the United Nations who will have the task of investigating allegations of human rights abuses. Frustration is building that there is still no proper UN investigative team on the ground in East Timor to begin collecting and preparing evidence of human rights abuses.
Almost three weeks ago the UN Commission on Human Rights acted and authorised an inquiry into what had gone on in East Timor. But the inquiry's experts have yet to arrive.
The frustration boiled over this week when even the head of the UN Assistance Mission to East Timor (UNAMET), Englishman Mr Ian Martin, chided the UN Human Rights Commission's tardiness.
"Certainly, there are not at the moment adequate resources to carry out investigations," Mr Martin said in Dili on Thursday night.
Concerns were mounting that evidence of abuses was deteriorating, he said.
In the meantime it has fallen to the Australian-led Interfet troops to gather and preserve what evidence they find of abuses, but the Australian Defence Force readily admits the task is beyond its capabilities.
"Interfet lacks the investigative horsepower to do it but is securing the sites so others can do the investigation," said an ADF Interfet spokesman, Colonel Duncan Lewis, in Canberra yesterday.
He said the commander of Interfet, Major-General Cosgrove, had made his concerns known to the UN and had requested more investigative resources.
These concerns are shared by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Nicholas Cowdery, QC, who is heading a group of some 200 Australian lawyers who have volunteered to gather evidence of atrocities.
This group, operating under the auspices of the International Commission of Jurists, has begun interviewing East Timorese people with knowledge of abuses and atrocities who have been evacuated to Australia.
"The idea is to record the evidence while the detail is fresh in people's minds and the evidence is not contaminated," he said yesterday.
The UN inquiry, when it gets under way, will report back to the UN Human Rights Commission by the end of the year. It will then be up to the commission to decide if an international criminal tribunal should be established to bring to justice those Indonesian officials and others suspected of involvement.
Indonesia has threatened not to co-operate. After being pressed to set up an inquiry by the United States Secretary for Defence, Mr William Cohen, it has established its own national commission to investigate the role of its military in East Timor.
The United Nations official inquiry into suspected atrocities in East Timor has become bound in procedural red tape and its start has been delayed by several weeks.
It was expected that the war crimes inquiry would begin immediately after the UN Commission on Human Rights recommended it on September 27. The UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, moved quickly to appoint his Human Rights Commissioner, Mrs Mary Robinson, as head of the inquiry and said the investigation should be conducted with "urgency". However, UN procedure requires final approval of the commission's recommendation from a powerful committee of the UN General Assembly before it can go ahead.
Even though the inquiry is regarded as a pressing agenda item for the UN, the Economic and Social Council of the General Assembly will not meet to discuss the matter until October 26 at the earliest.
In the meantime, Mrs Robinson has ordered her staff to begin preparations for the inquiry in the hope it can begin as soon as the go-ahead is given. Mrs Robinson said on October 1 that she hoped it would be only days before she could name the five experts she had selected to lead the panel of investigators in East Timor.
However, that announcement cannot be made until the Economic and Social Council has granted its approval.
A team of field workers, including several forensic experts, is preparing to fly to East Timor to gather evidence.
The commission of inquiry will operate under a tight deadline. Mr Annan requires it to report to the UN Security Council by December 31.
The inquiry will investigate allegations of mass killings, rapes and the forced transfer of East Timorese people.
[Comment: Fiddling, burning ... and gosh, "several" forensic experts! That should be enough to get to the bottom of things.]
SUAI, East Timor, Oct 16 (AFP) - Indonesian soldiers and pro-Jakarta militia slaughtered as many as 200 people in a church in this town in southwestern East Timor on September 6, an eyewitness claimed Saturday.
Eliesu Gusmao said a mob arrived at around 2 p.m. He saw them and hid in a corner of the church compound.
He said he heard the militia commander shout "Shoot, shoot, shoot" at which point the massacre unfolded.
Gusmao identified the militia leader giving the order as Icidio Manek, leader of the Laksaur militia group.
An AFP photographer who visited the scene saw piles of crushed and burned skeletal remains behind the church, which was almost totally burned down. Only the concrete facade and church bell remained.
The collapsed roof of the church lay in ashes. Pieces of burned clothing littered the ground outside. By an iron bedstead bed there were bigger bones, the photographer said.
Local residents had placed red bougainvillia flowers on the piles of crushed skeletons.
The walls and floor of a half finished cathedral, about 100 meters away but within the church compound, were splattered with old bloodstains.
Bullet holes riddled the walls and spent cartridges littered the floor.
Gusmao, whose wife and daughter were still missing, said women and children screamed at the gunmen to stop, but they took no notice.
Some of the militia hacked people with machetes, he said. One of those hacked to death was Roman Catholic priest Father Francisco from Indonesia's Java island, he said.
He added that about 200 people had been sheltering from militia violence in the church grounds since January.
He said the militia had taken most of the bodies away.
There were two burned out jeeps and one burned out tractor in the compound.
In the East Timorese capital of Dili, International Force for East Timor (Interfet) spokesman colonel Mark Kelly said troops were in the Suai area Saturday, but he had no confirmation of the apparent massacre.
"I can't confirm that but we will follow it up. All reports like this will be thoroughly investigated," he said. [...]
[Note: Again the caveat: this is provided as evidence of the overall veracity of the atrocity claims, not as evidence of a gender-selective massacre. It may well have been, however: one would expect the population to take shelter in the church grounds to be disproportionately composed of children and women, as the above accounts hints. Note to the U.N.: do "piles of crushed and burned skeletal remains" now constitute "shreds of evidence," in your considered view?]
DILI, East Timor (AP) -- Maria Bianco can't shake the terror of the militiaman's bullet shattering her leg or the memory of her 5-year-old daughter shrieking after being wounded in the neck.
But three weeks later, her most chilling memory of that day is the face of the uniformed gunman. She knew him. He was a neighbor.
"His name was Paolino," Bianco, 25 years old and five months pregnant, recalled Friday in a halting whisper at a French military hospital where she and her daughter are recovering. "We never thought he would shoot us.
As international peacekeepers gradually assert control in the mountainous hinterlands of East Timor, villagers are coming forward with accounts of the violent rampage by anti-secessionist militiamen after the territory's people voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia in an Aug. 30 referendum.
The campaign of intimidation forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee into the forest or to refugee camps in neighboring West Timor. Enormous property damage -- mainly burned homes and businesses -- can be seen in towns and cities throughout the territory.
Thus far, hard evidence of large-scale, systematic killings has not emerged, despite initial fears that the death toll could reach into the thousands or even tens of thousands. By the weekend, U.N. officials had counted about 100 bodies.
More typical are accounts of scattered atrocities like the shootings described by the Biancos, who lived on the outskirts of the town of Ainaro, about 95 miles south of Dili, the East Timor capital.
The family said that on Sept. 23 -- three days after the first peacekeepers arrived in Dili, but before they began fanning out into the countryside -- about a dozen armed militiamen arrived at the village and ordered them and their neighbors to leave for West Timor.
The Biancos refused and tried to flee into the forest. With that, they said, the militiamen opened fire, killing a dozen people and wounding six, including Maria Bianco, 5-year-old Zeferina and Maria's sister, Isadora Araujo, who also is pregnant.
Their account could not be independently verified. But Dr. Jean-Dominique Singland, the French army surgeon who treated their gunshot wounds, said the Ainaro villagers had provided vivid and consistent descriptions of the day's events.
"They were very lucky, because they were found fairly soon after and brought here, where we were able to treat them," he said. "Also, their wounds are in their extremities. In these (tropical) conditions, those who are shot in the abdomen would be much more likely to get infections and die without immediate help.
Since it was set up three weeks ago, the French field hospital has treated about 30 gunshot victims, many of them brought from the countryside by relief workers, Singland said.
The villagers of Ainaro suggested they might have been targeted by local members of the Mahidi militia because their area had long been a stronghold of the pro-independence Falintil rebels.
The regional Falintil chief, known as Commander Cobra, said in an interview that the villagers probably were right. "In other places, they (the militias) drove people out and burned down their houses, but didn't shoot them," he said.
Despite speculation that corpses may have been buried en masse or dumped into the sea, only about 100 bodies of apparent victims of militia violence have been found in East Timor, said Michel Barton of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities, a U.N. agency.
Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove, the peacekeeper commander, said no mass grave -- a half-dozen bodies or more in a single site -- had been found, but promised to aggressively investigate reports of any.
Investigators and human rights groups including Amnesty International say that proof of wholesale executions may yet come to light as peacekeepers expand their reach and more evidence is gathered.
The timing is highly sensitive, however. Rights investigators privately worry that any allegations of mass killings by militias -- especially if they involve collusion by the Indonesian army -- could jeopardize the 200,000 East Timorese refugees who are still awaiting repatriation.
In the Ainaro attack, victims said the militiamen wore uniforms like those of Indonesian soldiers and that some of the men's rifles appeared to be Indonesian army issue.
Villagers' accounts of incidents like those described by the Biancos -- neighbor pitted against neighbor -- also illustrate the internecine nature of the conflict, which presages a long and difficult mission for the international peacekeeping force.
Indonesia's parliament is expected to vote soon on whether to endorse East Timor's independence vote. Opponents of independence for the territory say its secession could set off a Yugoslav-style disintegration of Indonesia, whose thousands of islands are a patchwork of ethnic and tribal groups.
Troops from the multinational force in East Timor have found evidence suggesting that militia fighters are still trying to force East Timorese over the border into West Timor.
It now appears a deadly clash between Australian troops and militia fighters yesterday came as the militia fighters tried to shift hundreds of East Timorese out of their town and over the border.
Three militia fighters are thought to have died in the gun battle, no Australian soldiers were injured.
Later, troops from Australia's second battalion, with armoured personnel carriers, went back into the area east of Balibo and found 1,200 people packed into a schoolyard.
The soldiers say the militia fighters had entered the town in an effort to move people out and over the border but had struck opposition from a senior figure in the town.
For Australian troops in the western region, the sight of people is unusual, with most towns in the area deserted.
There are claims of mass killings in the East Timorese enclave of Oekussi, which lies across the border from the Territory and is surrounded by West Timor.
A senior commander of East Timor's pro-independence Falintil resistance group has called on the multinational force to immediately intervene.
A Falintil commander says he has received information from inside the enclave, which lies 80 kilometres inside West Timor.
Up until now little has emerged from inside the isolated enclave.
The Falintil Commander says reports received from Oekussi tell of mass killings at the hands of Indonesian troops.
A statement released in East Timor says at least 50 people were killed after 12 truck loads of Indonesian soldiers moved through the enclave yesterday.
He has called on the multinational forces to take immediate action.
An East Timor pro-independence leader has accused peacekeeping forces of ignoring the plight of the people of Oecussi - the East Timor enclave in West Timor.
Taur Matan Ruak, a commander of East Timor's pro-independence Falintil rebels, says Indonesian troops and their militia allies have killed 50 people and raped many women in the enclave.
Oecussi is on the northern coast of Indonesian-held West Timor and is connected to the rest of East Timor by an 80-kilometre (50-mile) stretch of road.
Peacekeeping officials say there are plans to move Interfet troops into Oecussi but they have hinted that this will not happen until more troops arrive, to bring the force to its full complement of 8,000.
Colonel Mark Kelly, chief of staff of the Australian-led multinational force said: "We've always considered that the Oecussi enclave was a clear part of our mandate and was included in the overall territory of East Timor".
Pro-independence leader Taur Matan Ruak said; "Our people are being wiped out, they are surrounded, they cannot escape.
"There is no excuse for Interfet's inaction, and if they delay further, it will be too late".
A spokesman for Caritas, the aid agency responsible for helping the enclave, said reports from the area suggested Oecussi was in dire need of everything from food and medical care to shelter.
But, she added, the security situation made it impossible for humanitarian aid to be delivered. [...]
For months, human rights groups, non-governmental organisations and pro-independence supporters claimed that hundreds, even thousands were killed by pro-Jakarta militia.
So far there has been no evidence of massacres on a large scale. [Note: Been to Suai yet?]
British Gurkhas searching remote areas of East Timor for evidence of human rights abuses have found sites of torture and killings but no bodies or mass graves.
The peacekeeping forces, investigating the disappearance of 150,000 people, suspect many bodies may have been disposed of at sea.
Mutilated corpses have begun washing up on the East Timor coastline.
Inland, five miles from the border with West Timor, near the town of Maliana, the soldiers have found piles of clothing beside a lake and a police station where it is thought at least 40 people were killed.
Corporal Rob Balmer, of the Military police, found bone fragments at the scene but admitted: "Someone did an almost perfect job of removing all the evidence."
The team of Gurkhas is questioning local people and piecing together rumours and hearsay.
Major Tim Warrington said: "Hearsay will probably turn into the truth that we're looking for".
The Council for Timorese Resistance says if Interfet goes to the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi-Ambeno in November, it might be too late to save anyone.
The council's president, Xanana Gusmao, says he is receiving reports that Indonesian troops are killing people in the enclave, on the western side of the island, on a daily basis.
Mr Gusmao says lives can only be saved if Interfet gets there soon.
"We expect that Interfet can go to Oecussi as soon as possible. [The forces] plan to go in the first week in November. I think that it is very, very late to save more lives," he said.
Pressure is mounting on the multinational force in East Timor to move in to the strife-torn enclave of Ambino, following reports that Indonesian forces are carrying out atrocities there.
The enclave is 80 kilometres inside Indonesian West Timor and independence sources say their colleagues are being killed in a brutal Indonesian military campaign, which has claimed at least 60 lives in the last few days.
Interfet has dismissed suggestions of atrocities, saying it has assurances from TNI that there are no soldiers or Indonesian police in the enclave at the moment. [Note: Did I just read that? "Assurances" from the Indonesian military?]
Interfet says troops will be sent to Ambino as part of its plans to expand throughout East Timor, but senior offices will not say how quickly they will be on the ground in the enclave.
MARK COLVIN: And now to East Timor itself. We've known ever since Interfet entered the province that the territory has been emptied of its people. The population fled to the hills, were forced across the border or simply disappeared to an unknown fate.
Today has highlighted just how empty the countryside is, as Interfet combed the border region with West Timor trying to flush out militias. On the journey from Dili to the border, all the towns are deserted. All except one. Near the border, Interfet has found a town with two and a half thousand people - East Timorese ecstatic to see the troops.
Our correspondent, Raphael Epstein, is there with a satellite phone.
Raphael, what is this town called?
RAPHAEL EPSTEIN: Isalulisara (phonetic) and it's about 9 kilometres from the border, pretty much North-East of Balibo.
MARK COLVIN: And how come these people are still there?
RAPHAEL EPSTEIN: Well, that's the question, Mark. I don't know if you can hear in the background; they're welcoming the troops with an official ceremony, singing and chanting at the moment. We only suppose that this was a town, like many others in West Timor, that was about half pro-autonomy and half pro-independence.
We do know for a fact that there was a local militia leader here called Polo Consalves (phonetic) who basically needed to keep these people here as both a supply base from which Interfet says he has been able to at least prepared to [inaudible] with Interfet forces but also importantly as a power base.
He's not as big a militia leader as someone like Eurico Guterres that listeners may have heard of. So he needs this town as a representation of what he can achieve, and the power that he has.
MARK COLVIN: But on the other hand if the people are ecstatically welcoming Interfet, it doesn't sound as if he has much of a power base there after all.
RAPHAEL EPSTEIN: Well that's true. The local people here, - I guess also to do with that power base question, the local people here say that his second in command was killed in that contact with Interfet troops on Saturday and obviously I can tell you this a very genuinely warm and ecstatic welcome.
When we got off the trucks a couple of hours ago they broke out in spontaneous applause and spontaneous chanting. Like a lot of places in East Timor, these people were perhaps coerced into being part of the militia. Some of them might have been forced into militia activity and we do know that these people have to pay money to Polo Consalves to stay here. They have to pay about a hundred dollars US for each man that wanted to stay in the town.
So, it's obviously been both in their interests and in his interest for them to stay here. But this is a remarkable difference to anything else along the drive from Dili. Every single town we've gone through are basically - we passed Liquica, which is only an hour West of Dili - as being absolutely empty and absolutely deserted.
There are no burnt buildings here and two and a half thousand people. They really are the only pocket of population between here and Dili.
In East Timor, the site of a mass grave has been sealed, with investigators saying it is no longer safe to continue excavating.
The skeletal remains of 11 people have been exhumed from a well on the outskirts of Liquica, where a churchyard massacre in April is said to have claimed the lives of 57 people.
Interfet spokesman Colonel Mark Kelly says the decision to seal the well was made on the grounds of safety.
Local people have claimed victims of the militia's churchyard massacre in April were dumped in the well.
It lies just outside the town about an hour's drive west of the capital.
Colonel Kelly says the decision was made knowing that further remains were likely to be inside the well.
He says the well was blessed by a military chaplain before it was sealed off.
He was unable to say whether the site would be reopened once UN-appointed special investigators arrived in East Timor. [...]
The Australian-led force in East Timor is planning to enter the enclave of Oecussi-Ambeno, a small chunk of East Timor territory on the east coast of Indonesian West Timor, amid claims that up to 65 people there have been killed by the Indonesian military (TNI) and militias.
Military sources said reconnaissance would soon be made by members of the Australian Special Air Services regiment.
Oecussi-Ambeno comes under the United Nations mandate but presents special logistical problems because it is separated from the rest of East Timor, so troops must land by air or sea.
Interfet spokesman Colonel Mark Kelly said in Dili: "We have as part of our expansion operations a plan to go in and provide security to the enclave just as we are with the wider part of greater East Timor." He was unable to give further details.
On Sunday a pro-independence leader in East Timor, Taur Matan Ruak, claimed 50 people had been rounded up and killed two days ago by Indonesian security forces and militias still operating in Oecussi.
In Darwin yesterday the East Timor resistance leader, Mr Xanana Gusmao, said the total number killed was at least 65. "Twelve trucks with TNI and militias entered Oecussi and killed more than 50," he said. "The bodies were burnt. They burnt also the houses. On the 12th of October they killed five people, on the 13th seven people and on the 14th three people."
Colonel Kelly said Interfet was unable to confirm the claims, but would investigate. Indonesian military officials in Dili had assured him that no troops or police remained in the enclave.
An Australian Defence Force manual on East Timor claims two loyalist paramilitary forces known as Meo Sakunar are active in Oecussi.
Oecussi-Ambeno, with a pre-ballot population of 55,400, is a historical quirk, the result of a turn-of-the-century trade-off between former colonial powers Holland and Portugal.
About two weeks ago, a 14-year-old boy escaped from Oecussi with a letter to the UN appealing for help to protect people from militia violence. [Note: Fiddling, burning ...]
The Herald has learnt that a French warship could play a major part in the evacuation of an estimated 150,000 East Timorese refugees living in militia-controlled camps along the border area of West Timor.
There are plans for the ship to dock at Batugade in East Timor, which is close to the border, to take refugees who cross from the west to points further east.
Hundreds of refugees are returning each day to Dili under an agreement brokered between Indonesian authorities and the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
That trickle is likely to turn into a flood following Jakarta's agreement to allow any refugees to return home. UN agencies and non-government organisations are planning for a sudden influx of between 100,000 to 150,000 refugees.
"The difficulty is going to be getting the people from the camps across the border. The militia are forcibly holding people in camps they control," a UN official said.
Interfet sources in East Timor have confirmed that at least nine bodies have been washed up on a beach near the border with Indonesian West Timor.
An Interfet source stationed in the western region says among the nine bodies washed up at the town of Batugade in the last week, some had their hands and feet cut off.
He said the physical condition of some of the bodies suggests they were killed in towns inside West Timor, such as Atambua.
He believes other bodies could have come from Balibo, where he says there were a lot of militia atrocities.
He says some people were shot in the arms and legs and dragged around in front of terrified locals to force them to flee to West Timor, a month ago.
Major General Peter Cosgrove says Interfet already has 100 instances of physical evidence or reliable reports of militia killings.
In East Timor, more details are emerging of militia atrocities, this time in the western town of Balibo.
The multinational force, Interfet, says it has heard reports that 11 students were hacked to death in the centre of the town just days after the independence ballot.
Locals say among the people hunted down by the militias were the pro-independence students.
They were taken to the road junction outside the house where five Australian newsmen were killed in 1975.
The students were hacked to death with machetes and their bodies were taken to the nearby town of Batugade and thrown into the sea.
Interfet says it is detailing all reported atrocities and making preliminary investigations of all bodies recovered.
Australian peacekeepers found more than 20 bodies in the town of Liquicia, 20 miles west of the capital, Dili, following a tip off from local people.
A team of military investigators has been sent to the scene and Red Cross officials were due to examine the remains.
Spokesman Colonel Mark Kelly said it was "the first discovery of bodies of this size". But he refused to release details on whether the corpses had been concealed or dismembered or shot.
The BBC's David Willis in Liquicia says three burial sites were found within half a mile of each other.
Australian peacekeepers believe that one location - a dried-out creek in Liquicia - could contain multiple bodies.
At another - a house across the road - military police believe a 19-year-old girl was hacked to death. They have also discovered a body on the nearby beach.
Nervous villagers told the BBC that people had been stopped at roadblocks, and pro-independence supporters weeded out and hacked to death by a group of up to six people.
United Nations officials are due to arrive in the next few days to investigate allegations of human rights atrocities in the territory.
Their inquiry was set up by the United Nations Human Rights Commission despite opposition from Indonesia, which has said it will conduct its own investigations.
The grave in Liquicia is the first evidence supporting the many reports of genocide which followed the vote for independence nearly two months ago.
Until now, only a few bodies had been uncovered in separate locations.
It is believed that attempts were made to hide many of the victims. Some bodies have washed up along East Timor's northern coastline.
A wave of killings and destruction followed an overwhelming vote for independence by East Timor's 850,000 people, in a referendum on 30 August.
In the next few days, Indonesia's assembly is expected to ratify East Timor's right to independence after almost 24 years of army-enforced rule from Jakarta.
All 11 factions in the People's Consultative Assembly agreed on the matter on Monday and correspondents say the vote should be a formality.
Aid agencies are bracing themselves for the return of tens of thousands of refugees now in camps just across the border in West Timor.
Officials reported on Tuesday that several hundred people had crossed the border on foot on Monday.
It is the first group of such size to attempt the crossing and it is thought likely bigger groups could follow soon.
LIQUISA, East Timor, Oct 19 (AFP) - At least 20 bodies were found in three places in this coastal town Tuesday, the largest number yet uncovered in a small area by multinational forces, a senior Interfet officer said.
Reporters, including an AFP photographer saw the three separate sites, one on a beach, one in a dry creek bed and one in a house.
All sites were within a one kilometer radius, and by the time journalists arrived were surrounded by crime scene tape, beyond which UN personnel barred them from going.
The beach site appeared to be a grave just of the shore in scrubland. In the creek bed, a current had cut a cave into the embankment, and the bodies appeared to have been stuffed into the cave and the embankment collapsed on top of it, the photographer said.
An official outside the house said the body of a 19-year-old girl was found inside. The body had been forced into a box, and almost certainly dismembered.
Captain Jeremy Gillman-Wells, a militiary liaison officer for Liquisa, said the bodies would be exhumed on Wednesday and if identified, returned to their next of kin.
He said they had eye-witness accounts of the killings, which indicated some of the victims may have come from Dili.
In Dili earlier Interfet spokesman Colonel Mark Kelly said local residents had alerted the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) to the discovery late Monday, and soldiers went into the area early Tuesday.
"We are looking at approximately 20 bodies, at least at this time ... as for any other gruesome details, I haven't been passed them," Kelly said.
A specialist investigation team was being brought in, he said.
When asked if the discovery in Liquisa, 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of Dili, was the biggest by the Interfet so far, Kelly replied "That's certainly" the case.
He refused to release details on whether the corpses had been dismembered or shot.
Once investigations were complete there would be a formal burial, he added.
There were also unconfirmed reports that nine bodies washed up on the beach near the East Timorese border town of Batugade overnight.
"Certainly there have been reports that a number of bodies have been washed up. Where they have come from is still undetermined."
"As far as nine appearing overnight, I can't confirm that," he added.
Liquisa was the scene of a massacre in April -- months before the territory's vote for independence -- when pro-Jakarta militiamen hacked to death at least 21 refugees in a churchyard.
The birthplace of one of the heroes of East Timor's resistance, Nicolo Lobato, its people are fiercely pro-independence and have long been targetted by the pro-Indonesian militias.
In the aftermath of East Timor's August 30 vote for independence from Indonesia, militiamen rampaged across the territory in an orgy of destruction and drove an estimated 250,000 East Timorese across the border into Indonesian West Timor.
The first Interfet troops arrived in East Timor on September 20 and in the first 10 days they, and journalists, found at least 38 bodies in the Dili area, some dismembered and some burned.
The largest group of nine charred corpses were found in the back of a utility vehicle near the airport. One was apparently a child.
Over the weekend, residents of the southwestern town of Suai showed soldiers a site where they said some 200 people had been massacred by militias in a churchyard on September 6.
Piles of ground up bones, and bone splinters were found, but no bodies.
When Interfet forces went into Maliana township for the first time, they found total destruction -- rows and rows of burned houses, and no people.
But despite returning refugees recounting how townspeople were systematically massacred in the stadium and the church, no bodies have been found.
The lack of discoveries of mass graves has led some UN officials to hope that the scale of the slaughter by pro-Jakarta militia was not as high as feared, despite repeated stories by refugees that the militia always either took the bodies of their victims away by truck or dumped them in the sea.
MALIANA, East Timor—As scores of weary, bedraggled East Timorese men trudge down from the verdant hills that surround Maliana after a month in hiding, they are asking the same anguished question: Where are our families?
The men, many of them supporters of independence for East Timor, had fled to the mountains early last month, seeking to escape anti-independence militias pillaging the countryside. They camped out in caves and makeshift bamboo tents, fearful that they--but not their wives, mothers and children--would be targeted by the militiamen.
But now, as these men walk down to their ransacked homes, to their church and then to the burned-out town center, they are discovering an eerie desolation. No squealing children. No smell of cooking fires. Nobody. Anywhere.
In another cruel twist to the conflict that has engulfed this poor island territory since Aug. 30, when residents overwhelmingly voted to secede from Indonesia, international peacekeepers and human rights observers here believe that, in a final act of retribution, most women, children and older men from this town and dozens of others were herded by militiamen across the nearby border into Indonesian-controlled western Timor, where they are being held against their will. And now it is the men here who are voicing the same wrenching grief as mothers and wives have in so many other military conflicts, when their sons and husbands were carted off to prison camps.
"All I can think about is my family," said Roberto Soares, 20, who last saw his mother, two sisters and six other relatives on Sept. 4, the day he ran into the hills with dozens of other young men.
He thinks his family is being held at a refugee camp near Atambua, a town about 20 miles away in western Timor, which is still part of Indonesia and is under control of the central government in Jakarta. "I'm worried," he whispered, his voice choking up. "I hear they are killing people in Atambua."
Although allegations of widespread murders or forcible detentions in the camps have not been independently confirmed, human rights workers say the militias have intimidated the women and children, warning them that if they return to East Timor, their husbands and sons will be attacked.
"They're using threats, not fences," said Richard Ragan, an emergency officer with the U.N. World Food Program, which has flown more than 10 tons of high-protein biscuits to Maliana.
Peacekeepers anticipate that many of the 260,000 people believed to be in the camps might return to East Timor on foot, through this town. If and when that might happen, though, is unclear. Representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees still have not been able to enter the camps near Atambua, where as many as 150,000 people--including 25,000 from the Maliana area--are believed to be held.
"The border is sealed, locked, shut," said Jacques Franquin, a spokesman for the U.N. agency. "We believe they will be allowed to return one day, but when and how is anybody's guess."
That uncertainty defines Roberto Alves's life. A university student, he came home from the Indonesian city of Surabaya in late August to vote and subsequently fled into the mountains with his father after being threatened by militiamen. When Alves returned home Saturday, he discovered his mother and sister were gone.
"Without my family, it doesn't feel like I have returned," said Alves, 24.
Since his family's house was burned down during the militia rampage, he sleeps in one of the few intact dwellings in his neighborhood--one that used to belong to a militiaman. With his mother and sister gone, Alves said he has no desire to clean out the family house and rebuild it.
"I just don't feel like doing anything now but wait for them," he said.
Wearing a blue sweat shirt and camouflage cutoffs, he has spent much of the last two days surveying the damage in Maliana, which used to be a vibrant town surrounded by coffee plantations and corn fields about 40 miles southwest of Dili, the East Timorese capital.
From the air, the community looks like it was hit by a powerful hurricane. Roofs are gone. Windows have been shattered. Smashed furniture sits outside houses.
Walking through the neighborhoods, which are patrolled by Australian peacekeeping troops and a regiment of British army Gurkhas, the thoroughness of the destruction is evident. Water pipes have been hacked open; cars are blackened shells.
When the men first began descending from the hills, peacekeeping troops wondered whether women were staying behind, waiting for a signal that the town was safe. And they questioned whether the men's families had taken refuge in other places.
"It quickly became clear that wasn't the case," said New Zealand army Maj. Mark Ogilvie. "These guys have a good bush telegraph. If their families were in the hills, they'd know about it."
Even if their families return, many of the men know life will take months, if not years, to return to normal. The turmoil prevented people from planting crops before the rainy season, which begins in the next week or two, meaning that a food shortage likely will continue into next year. Then there is the matter of reconstructing homes, schools and other elements of life as they knew it.
Soares, who sleeps in an Indonesian state television transmission facility, one of a handful of buildings left intact by the militias, said he does not intend to return to the University of East Timor, where he had been studying economics.
"There is a lot of work to do in Maliana," he said. "We may have our independence, but we are starting from nothing."
Pro-Jakarta militia have launched a last-ditch bid to recruit teenagers and young men in the West Timor refugee camps before they flee across the border.
Bernard Kerblat, an emergency response team leader for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says there appears to be a recruitment drive which is particularly targetting teenagers and young men.
He says the UNHCR is in high-level discussions with the Indonesian authorities to try and halt it.
News of the recruitment drive was relayed to UNHCR staff on the ground in Maliana by teenagers who joined a mass exodus across the border from camps around the West Timor border city of Atambua.
[Note: "Recruitment drive," huh? Translation: The Indonesians are attempting to hold back as many of the surviving young men in the camps as possible.]
The aid agency World Vision says it has circumstantial evidence of mass rape by militia forces in a region close to East Timor's western border.
Yesterday, for the first time, the agency was able to get food and other supplies into the town of Bobanaro.
World Vison's James Addis says a helicopter made six trips into the town, lifting more than 15 metric tonnes of rice, blankets and tarpaulins into the area.
Mr Addis says the relief workers were stunned by the miserable conditions the people were living in.
"Most of the homes have been destroyed and there is also a lot of trauma," Mr Addis said.
"Apparently when the militias went on their rampage, they herded people into the marketplace to make forced evacuations and during that time, many young girls were dragged away and raped by the pro-integrationist forces."
[...] Villagers said that people were stopped at roadblocks, their hands were tied behind their backs and they were hacked to death. In Dili a spokesman for the international force for East Timor (Interfet) said it was not known when the deaths occurred. [...]
Evidence has emerged of a recruitment drive by the pro-Jakarta militia to enlist young men in the refugee camps. Food and money is being offered as an incentive.
An official of the UN high commissioner for refugees said that news of the drive had been brought by teenagers who crossed into East Timor saying they had run away rather than be enlisted. "They are particularly targeting teenagers and young men and that is very worrying for us," said Bernard Kerblat, emergency team leader. [...]
[...] Thousands of starving, barefoot refugees, mostly women and children, poured over the border from West Timor yesterday after the militia relaxed their grip on camps in Atambua, aid officials said. [...]
In East Timor, the skeletal remains of six people have been uncovered in a well outside the town of Liquica, the site of a churchyard massacre in April this year.
UN workers at the site are now attempting to dig deeper, suspecting that more bodies may have been dumped in the well.
On arrival at the site early this morning UN workers pulled back a sheet of iron exposing the first of the skeletal remains to be unearthed today.
By midday, six zipped-up body bags lay near the well.
Investigators on site had been acting on information received from local sources.
Villagers had told Interfet victims of April's massacre in which 57 people are thought to have died had been dumped in the well.
Investigators are currently attempting to remove the top of the well, fearful that if they continue excavating it may collapse on those digging below.
DILI, East Timor, Oct 21 (AFP) - Refugees appeared to be massing at the tense West Timor-East Timor border near the town of Batugade as Indonesian soldiers blocked the first official truckloads of East Timorese scheduled to cross into the territory.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official Jacques Franquin said the numbers on the West Timor side of the border near Batugade were unknown, but aid agencies were preparing for another mass movement.
"We don't know how many there are, but some have already sneaked across and told us there are a lot of people waiting," Franquin said, adding between 15 and 20 had crossed under cover of darkness.
"But if the border becomes open we can expect a large influx ... it seems they are waiting for an order to come," said Franquin.
There were no immediate indications where the refugees had come from, and the border remained officially closed by the Indonesian armed forces.
And on Thursday it was tense with no contact between Interfet and Indonesian soldiers.
The UNHCR were at the site on the East Timor side to deal with the first organized repatriation of East Timorese by road, who were expected to arrive Thursday at a village 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Batugade.
But by late afternoon there was no sign of them.
"We were expecting this convoy with 14 vehicles carrying 114 people. They were supposed to cross this morning, everyone was ready," Franquin said.
The crossing was supposed to be the first official organized repatriation by road after negotiations between the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) and Interfet.
"Everyone has been informed of the crossing, TNI on one side, Interfet on the other," Franquin said. "But there now appears to be a standoff."
"It is very tense at the border," he said. "It seems now that there is no intention by the Indonesian military to open the border."
He said there had been no explanation from the TNI.
Near Memo, where thousands of refugees recently flooded over the border, gunfire has been heard in the last few days, Colonel Mark Kelly said in announcing the start of an operation to step up sweeps of the border area and disarm any militia found.
"We want to avoid any contact with the militia, or indeed any harrassment of the refugees as they start to come across the border," he said.
"There have been reports of miltia haunting refugees, telling them they will seek them out and kill them."
Memo was quiet Thursday after the final 750 refugees filed over Wednesday after the TNI ordered their release from a camp near Atambua. Around 2,000 came over on Tuesday.
The refugees told aid agencies the camp was controlled by 80 militia, but 20 TNI soldiers ordered them to move out and let the people go.
Jakarta has vowed to assist the UNHCR to repatriate hundreds of thousands of East Timorese who fled or were pushed into West Timor.
Meanwhile the first ship carrying between 2,000 and 2,500 refugees was due to arrive early Friday from the West Timorese capital of Kupang. UNHCR has a contract with the company leasing the Indonesian ship to make eight trips, bringing in 16,000 people over the next 10 days.
Negotiations are underway with other shipping companies.
[...] The pro-Indonesian militia, whose leaders have for weeks threatened mass attacks from West Timor, have been watched by Australian, New Zealand and British Gurkha troops patrolling the border region.
Interfet has been using aerial and satellite imagery combined with advanced signals interception technology to detect the militia's movements.
But Interfet is still refusing to discuss its plans to enter the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi-Ambeno on the north coast of West Timor, where independence leaders claim at least 65 people have been killed by militias and Indonesian military since the weekend.
Falintil resistance guerillas said militia and the army were plotting to take over Oecussi next week.
"We continue to urge the international community to demand that Interfet intervene immediately in the enclave of Oecussi," Falintil vice-commander Taur Matan Ruak Ruak was reported as saying. "Interfet are responsible for securing all of East Timor and the Oecussi deserves the same attention as the rest of the country." [...]
[Comment: Fiddling, burning ...]
SUAI, East Timor, Oct. 21—Scores of 7.62mm shell casings litter Father Francisco's bedroom floor. At least 60 bullet holes pockmark the bamboo-scaffolded facade of Ave Maria Cathedral. A thick coating of dried blood stretches across the entrance to a church schoolroom. A pile of underwear sits at the foot of a staircase.
It was here on Sept. 6, at a Roman Catholic compound comprising the cathedral, Our Lady of Fatima Church and several other buildings, that survivors say a throng of pro-Indonesia militiamen engaged in one of the bloodiest acts of retribution against the people of East Timor, who days earlier had voted to secede from Indonesia. Armed with assault rifles, machetes and hand grenades, the militia members set upon independence supporters inside the compound, raping dozens of women and slaughtering more than 100 people, including three priests, according to the survivors.
Their account of what happened, the first provided by witnesses, is similar to that of a nun, Sister Mary Barudero, who described the incident to a reporter at a refugee camp in the western Timor city of Kupang last month. Her description -- relayed from another nun who was in the compound at the time -- and a report by the Vatican missionary news service Fides served as the basis of a story in The Washington Post on Sept. 11.
But despite all the indications of a mass killing here, Australian army investigators with an international peacekeeping force have run into an unusual hurdle in trying to determine exactly what happened -- a lack of bodies.
Thus far, the investigators have found only two sets of human remains in the torched and looted compound. They believe, based on reports from survivors of the attack and other witnesses, that the militiamen disposed of the bodies by burning them near the church, loading the charred corpses on a truck and then dumping them in one of several crocodile-filled lakes on the outskirts of Suai, a coastal town about 60 miles southwest of Dili, the East Timor capital.
Human rights officials contend that militia groups took similar care to conceal other large-scale killings in East Timor, which they fear could hinder efforts to apprehend and prosecute those responsible. In the central town of Maliana, for instance, the bodies of 47 people allegedly hacked to death with machetes were carted to the coast, placed on a boat, weighted down with sandbags and tossed into the sea, the officials said. As of Wednesday, only three bodies had washed ashore.
"The great lengths the militias have gone to to hide and destroy the bodies makes it very difficult for us to figure out what happened," said Capt. Jens Streit, an Australian army lawyer who is investigating human rights violations as part of the Australian-led multinational peacekeeping mission. "We have eyewitness accounts, but other than things like shell casings and blood stains, we don't have a lot of physical evidence."
Peacekeeping and human rights officials do not have an estimate of the number of people killed in the rampage, but they believe that large-scale killings, such as the one alleged in Suai, were rare. More common, they say, were attacks that killed fewer than 10 victims. Around Dili, for example, investigators have found 20 sites at which they believe people were killed in militia violence, but no more than nine bodies were found at each location.
But even in those cases, officials said, the killers took steps to cover their tracks, particularly by burning corpses. "In Kosovo, they didn't care about what the world saw," Streit said. "The Indonesians are extremely concerned about saving face. They want to be able to deny any of this happened."
U.N. human rights commissioner Mary Robinson has appointed a five-member commission to look into the East Timor violence, but as of today no U.N. investigators have entered the country. A U.N. spokesman said they are waiting for security conditions here to improve. [Note: Fiddling, burning ...]
In the interim, the task of gathering evidence has fallen to Australian army lawyers and military police, who have been scouring the Suai church for clues before they are pocketed by local residents or washed away by rain. Military police also have been talking to witnesses.
One, Eliziu Gusmao, recalled the afternoon of Sept. 6 as a barrage of almost indescribable violence and hours of sheer terror. Gusmao, a nurse who had lived in a town near Suai and who is no relation to the East Timorese independence leader with the same surname, said he moved into the church compound with his family in May after being threatened by a local militia group. He said he was singled out because he was involved with the National Council for Timorese Resistance, a pro-independence group.
Because they offered such refuge and because Roman Catholic clergy often were identified with the independence movement -- mounted against largely Muslim Indonesian authorities -- Catholic institutions and churchmen were frequent targets of attacks by the pro-Indonesian militiamen.
For months, Gusmao, his wife and their 3-year-old son lived in a tent pitched on the spacious compound, between the cathedral, which is still under construction, and the church. In the weeks leading up to the Aug. 30 independence referendum, he said, hundreds of other pro-independence families fearful of the militia groups also took refuge on church property.
On the morning of Sept. 6, Gusmao said, several hundred militia members gathered on the street outside the compound, so he and his family decided to hide near the convent, which was far from the street and directly across from the church. Their peace of mind did not last long. By 2 p.m., the militiamen had scaled the fence and surrounded the church.
At 2:30, Father Dewanto walked out the front door of the church to try to talk to the militiamen, Gusmao said. Within seconds, a machete-wielding man charged at him, chopping at the priest's arm and neck. Moments later, Father Francisco came out the door. This time, the militiamen responded with gunfire, cutting him down on the church steps.
"Then one of the militiamen shouted, 'Father Hilario is in there. Let's go in there and shoot him,' " Gusmao said. When Father Hilario, the senior parish priest, did not heed the militiamen's shouts to come outside, a small group ran up the left side of the church and entered his study. A burst of automatic-weapons fire followed. A few seconds later, Father Hilario walked into the courtyard and collapsed, his white robe turning red, Gusmao said.
He said the order to kill Father Hilario was given by Izidio Manek, a local militia leader. Gusmao also said he saw several uniformed Indonesian soldiers at the church. The 7.62mm rounds found in the church are used in several types of military weapons.
Gusmao then ran to his family, which was waiting at the convent, and told them to flee. They ran out toward the street, where he believes they were put on a truck by militiamen and taken to a camp in Indonesian-controlled western Timor. He has not heard from them since.
Gusmao, however, decided to stay behind, climbing into a drainage ditch next to the convent, where he covered himself with leaves. For hours, he said, "it sounded like a war."
"I heard people screaming, people crying, people shouting," Gusmao said in a lengthy interview at the church compound. Pointing at the convent, he said, "They were even pulling women away from there." Note: Thus, mainly pulling men?
At 11 p.m., after the noise subsided, Gusmao said he crawled out of the ditch and walked around the convent toward a row of school rooms. As he walked by one, he saw "a huge pool of blood inside." Then, as he proceeded toward the church, he saw the carnage.
"There were more than 20 bodies piled in front of the church," he said. "Some had been shot. Some had their arms chopped off. Some had their heads chopped off. It was awful.
"I was not sure if they were dead or not, so I nudged them with my foot. But they were dead. All of them."
Gusmao said he quickly knelt and prayed, asking God to "receive their souls in heaven." Then he ran into the hills that surround Suai, where he remained in hiding for more than a month, he said, subsisting on river water, bananas and cassava plants, returning only when he received word that the peacekeepers had arrived.
The chronology related by Gusmao matched that of 13-year-old Atanacio de Costa Martinez, Father Hilario's nephew, who said he was in the church -- hiding under Father Francisco's bed -- during the shooting rampage. After Father Hilario was killed, Atanacio said the militia members entered the church and sprayed people inside -- mostly women and children -- with gunfire.
When the militiamen set fire to the church, Atanacio said, he jumped through the window of Father Francisco's room and sprinted out the rear of the compound. As he was leaving, he said he saw two large piles of corpses behind the church.
"There were dozens of bodies," Atanacio said. "They had been shot. They had been stabbed."
While he was in the ditch, Gusmao said he heard a militia member ride up on a motorcycle and shout at his colleagues, 'Where are the trucks? We want to bury the bodies.'"
Gusmao, a shy man who repeatedly appeared on the verge of sobbing as he recounted the incident, said one of his instincts as a nurse prodded him when he reached his hiding place in the hills at 4 a.m. He took out a small red notebook and jotted down his memories of the killings. Later, he complied a list of 36 local militia members and soldiers, many of whom he believes were involved in the attack.
"There is much pain in my heart," Gusmao said as he walked away from the compound, toward his new job at a emergency medical clinic set up by French volunteers. "I am sad not just for the victims, but for those who were from East Timor who conducted this against their own people."
DILI, East Timor (Reuters) - The international force in East Timor moved into the isolated enclave of Oecussi Friday and disarmed 40 militiamen wielding pipe guns, swords and knives, the force commander said.
Pro-independence guerrillas say up to 70 people have been killed in recent days in the enclave, which is cut off in West Timorese territory and was the last part of East Timor the U.N.-backed force entered.
"With this move, INTERFET has now exerted its security presence over the whole of East Timor," Major General Peter Cosgrove, commander of the INTERFET multinational force, told a news conference.
He declined to say how many troops were there, but said the international force was taking reports of atrocities there seriously.
"Any of these reports of wanton mass destruction don't just concern me, they concern the whole world community," Cosgrove said. "That's why we are in there."
Cosgrove said troops had begun to move in around 5:00 a.m. local time. No shots were fired.
"This lodgement is designed to provide security and to help the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of the enclave," Cosgrove said. "We also gain first-hand knowledge and information on that part of the mandate area."
Humanitarian operations in the enclave will at first be handled by INTERFET troops until it is judged safe for aid agencies to move in.
Cosgrove said there had been some destruction in the enclave, but it was too early to say how widespread this was.
East Timor's pro-independence Falintil guerrillas say pro-Jakarta militias have moved into the enclave several times this month, burning buildings and killing and terrorizing inhabitants.
It said thousands have fled into the hills in the enclave.
Falintil says it has intelligence that militiamen may launch a full-scale assault on Oecussi Monday.
The militias, in league with the Indonesian military, launched a campaign of murder and arson in the wake of East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in a U.N.-supervised ballot on August 30.
Thousands of militiamen are massed in West Timor and say they will fight to reclaim their homeland for Indonesia.
Some say East Timor should be partitioned, with Indonesia keeping the western districts where support for Jakarta is stronger. The militias may regard the enclave as an ideal place to begin this campaign, and as a territory where they can face INTERFET on more equal terms.
[Comment: Can't have it both ways, Major Cosgrove. If you've exerted your control over "the whole of East Timor," where are the missing people? And if you still can't find 400,000 of them, how meaningful is your control? But thanks for going into Oecussi.]
DILI, East Timor -- More refugees have crossed into East Timor by land, but the Indonesian military has refused to allow them to go back and get their families, a UN official said Saturday.
"At the end of yesterday (Friday) around 1,000 people crossed the border near Maliana," Jacques Franquin of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told AFP.
Many were men who filed over to see if it was safe to bring over their wives and children from Indonesian West Timor, he said. But the Indonesian military refused to let them return.
"The people that crossed said that after they came to East Timor, some wanted to go back and pick up their families but they couldn't. They were refused by the army and the militia," said Franquin, who was heading for the border area later Saturday.
They crossed at Soso, four kilometers (2.4 miles) from Maliana, after being released from several camps in the Turiskain area of West Timor. "It appears that the border was open for a couple of hours but after that they sealed the border again," Franquin said.
He added that 25 trucks had also apparently picked up refugees from several camps in the Turiskain area and taken them to Atambua, a border town.
"My analysis is that instead of creating a spontaneous movement of people they (the Indonesians) will try to organize the movement (back over the border) by truck," he said.
The first official organized crossing by land happened on Thursday when 114 people in 14 vehicles were escorted to the border near Batugade by the Indonesian military.
Around 2,500 refugees crossed the border on foot from a camp near Atambua earlier in the week.
Then, Indonesian soldiers ordered pro-Jakarta militiamen to release the entire population from a single camp.
In Brussels Friday Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said more than 250,000 East Timorese were still in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia.
Ogata said the UN refugee agency was trying to ease their return.
"We see the situation in East and West Timor as a whole," she told a press briefing after meeting with Poul Nielson, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Assistance.
"Already, over 7,000 East Timorese have gone back from West Timor and other parts of the island, and we are trying to make sure we have full access to the refugees," she said. [...]
The United Nations Mission in East Timor says the destruction of the Occussi enclave is complete.
Militia gangs burned down houses and raped women until the arrival of the multinational force.
Six people were flown out of the enclave yesterday suffering from wounds following militia attacks.
UNAMET's Pat Burgess is the only non-military person to have visited the enclave.
He describes the militia violence ongoing until Friday when Interfet troops arrived.
"The militia would come in at about eight o'clock in the morning, seven or eight o'clock. They would then steal what they can, if there were people around they would be killed," he said.
"A number of women, quite a lot of women I believe have been raped, and then when they've finished their business for the day they go back over the border into West Timor." [Comment: Note that "people" are killed but "women" are raped.]
Interfet is now providing rice and medicine distributions and hopes to escort aid agencies into the enclave in the next few days.
Interfet troops in East Timor have found only 2,500 people living in the hills in the western enclave of Oecussi-Ambino.
The population of enclave before the August independence vote was believed to be at least 30,000.
Military video footage shows high levels of destruction in the towns of Oecussi-Ambino, while the independence guerrilla group Falintil claims about 70 people were killed there recently.
Interfet spokesman Colonel Mark Kelly says he hopes those who have disappeared will return across the border, when they hear that the Australian-led troops have arrived to establish security.
[Comments: "Where Are The People," Part 39 ...]
DILI, East Timor, Oct 25 (AFP) - Pro-Jakarta militias have committed systematic looting, rape and killing in an East Timorese enclave, a UN official said Monday, while returning refugees were reportedly attacked as they left Indonesian territory. "There has been systematic intimidation, killings, a number of rapes and people being forced over the border," UN humanitarian affairs officer Patrick Burgess told AFP here after visiting the enclave of Oekussi.
Multinational peacekeepers stormed ashore the coastal enclave inside Indonesian West Timor on Friday.
Burgess said Oekussi town, which was previously home to 11,000 people, was devoid of people, vehicles and even animals.
After speaking to about 50 residents who had returned from the surrounding mountains, Burgess heard first-hand accounts of an orgy of violence and terror.
"The militias have been coming into the area every day around seven in morning," he said. "They loot and pillage and, in general, threaten the population.
"There have been a number of people killed and women raped, and then they go out at five in the afternoon. It is like a commute."
Residents said the militias had removed all cows, pigs and goats, as well as all vehicles with the exception of one motorcycle.
Burgess said nearly all buildings in the enclave had been destroyed, with the only structure left intact the church in Oekussi town.
He said the militiamen stopped their actions only on Friday after the seaborne landing by troops of the International Force for East Timor (Interfet).
Interfet spokesman Colonel Mark Kelly said operations in the enclave "continue to progress well," but did not reveal how much territory remained unsecured.
He said Interfet, deployed in East Timor to combat militia violence which followed an August 30 vote for independence from Indonesia, was continuing to build up its presence in Oekussi.
Fresh troops had arrived there Monday, but he said no sightings of pro-Indonesian militiamen had been reported since the first day, when 40 were detained.
He said initial medical assistance had been provided by Interfet doctors and three people had been airlifted to the Interfet hospital in the East Timor capital Dili.
The revelations of abuses in Oekussi came as another UN official said three returning East Timorese refugees had been injured when militiamen hijacked their vehicle in West Timor's main town Kupang.
It was the first reported incident since the repatriation process began on October 8, and occurred Sunday when the refugees were being taken by bus to board a Dili-bound ship carrying some 2,000 East Timorese home from camps in West Timor.
"There was no police escort accompanying the convoy and that was the problem," UN refugees representative Jacques Franquin said. "Now we are asking for better security.
"It was hijacked at a traffic light, and one person was taken from the first bus and injured. We don't know the weapons used, whether it was a knife, but I think it was a stone."
The victim, a man in his 20s, was forced from the bus carrying 12 passengers by some militiamen, he said.
The other passengers, who were travelling in a three-vehicle convoy ferrying about 50 people from the UN High Commissioner for Refugeestransit center in Kupang to the ship, fled on foot.
After police intervened, the attackers fled, said Franquin. The man was taken to hospital in Kupang and was being treated there, though the extent of his injuries was not known.
Two other passengers in the bus were injured by broken glass when the windscreen of the bus was shattered by stones, but later boarded the boat to Dili.
The UNHCR is assisting refugees to return by land, sea and air from West Timor, where more than a quarter of a million East Timorese were pushed or fled during the wave of militia violence that greeted the independence vote.
EAST TIMOR: Multinational forces in East Timor have found only 2,500 people, 6 per cent of the original population, in the enclave of Oecussi and can only speculate where the rest may be, a spokesman said yesterday.
UN sources said they believed 40,000 people once lived in Oecussi, on the north coast of Indonesian-controlled West Timor.
"We will certainly be looking to get humanitarian assistance and NGO elements into that region as part of the continuing build-up of Interfet forces in the enclave," said Col Mark Kelly, a spokesman for the multinational force.
Forty militia members were detained and disarmed on Friday when Interfet first landed in Oecussi, the last part of East Timor to come under Interfet.
David Shanks adds: Mrs Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has defended her choice of independent human rights experts for East Timor against objections raised by Mr José Ramos Horta, the Nobel Peace laureate and Timorese leader.
Mr Horta, in an interview on BBC, criticised in particular the choice of Ms Judith Sefi Attah of Nigeria, saying that she had been an apologist for the Abacha dictatorship in her country. He also criticised the choices of Mr A.M. Ahmadi from India and Mr Mari Kapi of Papua New Guinea, because of an Asian perspective likely to be sympathetic to Indonesia.
A spokesman for Mrs Robinson told The Irish Times that Ms Sefi Attah, a former minister in the Abacha government, had "for a very long time been an independent expert on a sub-commission of the UN Commission for Human Rights". She had worked since the 1950s for the rights of minorities, including indigenous peoples, and on human rights education.
Mr Ahmadi is a former chief justice of India and Mr Kapi is the deputy chief Justice of Papua New Guinea, he added.
[...] Details are starting to emerge of conditions in the enclave of Oecussi - the East Timor enclave in West Timor - where Interfet troops landed last Friday.
Humanitarian officials say all the buildings have been destroyed with the sole exception of the church. The telecommunications and water systems have also been damaged.
Before the referendum on independence, the enclave's population was about 50,000 - now, only a handful of people are left in the urban areas.
Three wounded people have been evacuated to Dili for treatment - two young men in their 20s with gunshot wounds and a woman in her sixties with a machete wound.
Officials say all three sustained their injuries some weeks ago and that there is no other evidence of killings or injuries.
Our correspondent in Dili says this conclusion conflicts with unofficial reports from pro-independence guerrillas and some humanitarian sources in Dili, who say killing has been widespread.
Last week Taur Matan Ruak, a commander of East Timor's pro-independence Falintil rebels, said Indonesian troops and their militia allies had killed 50 people and raped many women in the enclave.
Oecussi is on the northern coast of Indonesian-held West Timor and is connected to the rest of East Timor by an 80-kilometre (50-mile) stretch of road.
Civilian and military police have discovered another mass grave holding up to 10 bodies at a site on the outskirts of Dili.
Officials say the site was found as the Australian-led multi-national peacekeeping force, Interfet, spread into more devastated territory in the East Timorese enclave of Oekussi.
A senior civilian policeman working with the United Nations said relatives of the victims had led investigators to the site outside the capital on Sunday.
"A joint investigation will be done between the military and civilian police," he said.
A spokesman for Interfet, Colonel Mark Kelly, said at the weekend investigators had examined sites containing a total of 95 bodies since the force deployed on September 20.
Reports so far indicated up to 150 bodies would be found but some investigators refuse to rule out a bigger total when the estimated 250,000 East Timorese refugees return from West Timor and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people move back to their homes and were able to report other possible atrocities.
The peacekeepers have yet to find any evidence of large-scale atrocities in the 400-square kilometre enclave of Oekussi on the north coast of West Timor since they landed there last Friday.
But retreating pro-Jakarta militia had unleashed the same destructive rampage seen in other parts of East Timor. Spokesman Kelly said Interfet troops had been providing food, shelter and medicine to the people remaining in the enclave as they pushed out towards the border with West Timor.
"The church is literally the only building with a roof," he said.
The enclave is normally home to more than 50,000 East Timorese but the troops had only encountered an estimated 2,500 so far.
The bulk of the population was thought to be hiding in the hills or had been forced into West Timor.
East Timorese continued to cross from West to East Timor on foot with a group of 641 almost exclusively men arriving today, Monday, during the only 2 hours during which the border was open. The group came from West Timor's Hakesak area and crossed at the Soso border crossing toward Maliana in East Timor. It was not immediately clear why only men crossed and women and children were left behind. UNHCR was concerned about testimonies of some returnees who spoke of men being separated from women and children.
On Saturday, in just three hours between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m., around 1,000 East Timorese walked across the border to Maliana. They originated from different camps located in the area of Turiksain. Another 250 returnees crossed on Saturday morning. The movement then dried up on Sunday only to resume on Monday. It was not clear why the border was closed and opened at irregular intervals.
Returnees said the border was controlled by the anti-independence militia. Some testimonies indicated that the Indonesian army was moving people from remote camps to the Atambua area, *reportedly to prepare for an organized large scale return movement to East Timor. Most returnees said more people were trying to cross from West to East.
UNHCR and other agencies meanwhile are making contingency plans for a possible bigger influx across the border. Three transit sites have been identified to welcome returnees in Muggir near Batugade (north), Maliana (center) and Suai (south). Access to drinking water remains a major problem. OXFAM and other NGOs are installing water purification equipment. Already now, returnees are provided with humanitarian assistance, food and non-food items upon arrival in East Timor and before the onward journey to their homes.
Despite many concerns, the overall figures of East Timorese returning daily from West Timor and other parts of Indonesia continue to grow. By Monday more than 18,000 people had returned, be it in an organized fashion or spontaneously.
In the first such incident since the beginning of organized returns more than three weeks ago, a bus carrying 12 returnees from UNHCR's processing center in Kupang to the port on Sunday was stoned and briefly held up by a group of unknown assailants. One man suffered injuries after being briefly taken off the bus by the attackers. Some passengers were slightly injured by shattered glass. The attackers fled as the Indonesian police intervened. UNHCR subsequently decided that all further movement should be carried out with police escort and during daylight hours.
The bus incident, as well as reports of anti-independence militia presence in the border area, further illustrated how precarious the security situation is in West Timor.
DILI, East Timor, Oct. 26—Five weeks after a multinational peacekeeping force arrived in devastated East Timor to restore security and bring in supplies, fewer than half of this tiny new country's residents have returned to their homes from refugee camps and mountain hideaways.
Military and humanitarian officials estimate that 240,000 East Timorese are still in camps in Indonesian-controlled western Timor, where they are being intimidated from returning by armed militiamen who roam through the encampments at night. More than 200,000 others are believed to be camping in the hills of East Timor, either unaware of the security forces or worried that their towns are not yet safe.
As a result, many once buzzing towns are strangely quiet. In Dili, the capital, residential streets are lined with empty homes. The central market, although open for business, has only a fraction of the activity it had before early September, when anti-independence militias, linked to the army, tore across the territory after residents overwhelmingly voted to separate from Indonesia.
"We're missing an awful lot of people here," said Ross Mountain, the U.N. coordinator for humanitarian affairs in East Timor.
To date, only 16,000 refugees have returned from western Timor, which is part of Indonesia, primarily by boat and airplane from camps near the city of Kupang, on the far western side of the island. And only about 500 people have come back from an assortment of camps in the Atambua region of western Timor, near the border with East Timor, which reportedly hold more than 150,000 people.
The United Nations, which plans to govern East Timor for the next two to three years, has asked the Indonesian government to speed up the returns. Although the government said it has instructed regular soldiers not to impede refugees heading home, the militias either have not received those orders or are not following them, U.N. officials say.
"The flow of people is too slow," said Jacques Franquin, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "At this rate it will take a hundred days to get everyone back. That's too long."
Franquin said his office does not know what conditions are like in the Atambua camps because aid workers have not been allowed inside. The few reports humanitarian officials have received from people who have escaped suggest food and water are minimal, people are sleeping in crowded, makeshift tents and are suffering frequent harassment from militia members.
Refugees who have returned from Kupang, where living conditions appear to be better, have described the militia threats against going home: "Every night they would come to our camp and say to us, 'If you do anything or say anything out of order, we will kill you,' " said Manuel Mota, 39, a airport worker who returned to Dili by ship with his wife and seven children over the weekend.
Mota said he desperately wanted to return home, but was afraid to leave the camp and travel to the U.N. transit center where refugees sign up for space on the boat. "If they had seen me, they might have hurt my family," he said. But after five weeks in the camp, which used to be a sports stadium, Mota said he was willing to take the chance. [...]
[Original caption: "OECUSSI, EAST TIMOR - An aerial view of the East Timor city of Oecussi, also called Ambeno, which shows most houses destroyed October 27, reportedly by rampaging militia in this enclave of 50,000 people on Timor's north coast. Almost the entire population of the enclave fled into the hills or were taken to West Timor. Soldiers in a U.N.-backed multinational force in East Timor said fewer people appeared to have been killed in the enclave of Oecussi than feared. POOL (Reuters)."]
It is claimed that Indonesian troops joined militiamen in recent killing and looting in the East Timorese isolated enclave of Oecussi-Ambino.
Locals say militia groups were active in the area until the day the Australian-led forces arrived.
From the air, Oecussi's devastation is obvious, with only a handful of buildings remaining unburnt.
One of them, the church in the city, is now sheltering 3,000 people who have come out of the hills in the last few days.
They say TNI troops dressed in camouflage clothes without markings backed up the militia in recent weeks, taking part in the killing of local people.
The local leadership has a handwritten list of 34 names, giving the details of each person's death.
[Comment: Indonesian Army involvement ... surprise, surprise. I guess all those "assurances" about Oecussi were just hot air -- who would have guessed?]
DILI, East Timor (AP) - Anti-independence militiamen terrorized residents of a remote East Timorese enclave right up until the arrival of peacekeepers last week, townspeople said Wednesday.
Cut off from the rest of East Timor, the coastal enclave of Oecussi was the last area secured by the multinational forces who landed in East Timor five weeks ago. The troops' commander has rejected criticism from pro-independence rebels and others that troops should have been sent in sooner.
Some residents described killings and rapes they said were committed in recent weeks, but peacekeepers who secured the enclave on Friday said they yet to find evidence of atrocities.
"There have been no fresh graves, no bodies," said Maj. Tim Warrington, company commander of a British Gurkha regiment that spearheaded the drive into Oecussi. "All we've seen is a lot of burned-out buildings."
Less than one-tenth of Oecussi's 50,000 people have returned to their homes since the militia rampage, humanitarian workers said. Tens of thousands took to the hills to hide, and tens of thousands more fled or were driven to Indonesian-controlled West Timor.
East Timor is now under the control of a U.N. team that will oversee its transition to independence. Indonesia has effectively relinquished its claim to the former Portuguese colony, which it invaded in 1975 and later annexed.
The United Nations and humanitarian groups launched a worldwide appeal Wednesday for $200 million to finance more than 60 projects over the next nine months in East Timor, ranging from food and shelter to education and medical care.
The world body said devastation in the territory was extraordinary, estimating 70 percent of the buildings were destroyed and 75 percent of the population displaced in attacks and looting touched off by an Aug. 30 independence referendum.
In Oecussi, the only structure intact was the cathedral, which has become a gathering point for refugees. There, a list was posted with the names of 34 people reported slain.
It included notations from witnesses describing when and how the killings were carried out - a machete wound, a gunshot.
Villager Juakin Asqueli, 19, said he had seen three decapitated bodies, mutilated by machete wounds, in a rice paddy west of town. He said the bodies had been there about two weeks.
Other villagers reported finding three bodies in a well outside Oecussi. It was not clear whether they were included on the list posted at the cathedral.
The accounts of killings could not be independently confirmed during a daylong visit by journalists, organized by the military. The area is deemed too dangerous for free travel.
Until the peacekeepers' arrival, armed militias raided the enclave almost daily, crossing over from West Timor, townspeople said. A 24-year-old woman named Aurora, who did not want to give her surname, said she knew many women who had been raped by militiamen.
Fearful refugees are coming back slowly. About 4,000 have been accounted for, aid groups and peacekeepers said.
"It was a ghost town at first," said Lt. David McCammon, an Australian peacekeeper. "I was quite shocked at the devastation."
Humanitarian groups were setting up a clinic in Oecussi this week to supplement the military field hospital already operating. They are also starting emergency food distribution.
"Many were out in the hills a long time," Lise Grande, a U.N. humanitarian coordinator, said in Dili, East Timor's capital. Often, refugees escaped with only the clothes they were wearing, and are returning to find burned, looted houses, she said.
"They returned to nothing - they don't have anything to restart their lives," Grande said.
Interfet confirms four bodies found in Oekussi-Ambino enclave Four bodies have been found in East Timor's Oekussi-Ambino enclave.
Interfet has confirmed the deaths but will not take journalists to the site.
Interfet arrived in the enclave more than one month after troops were first deployed in East Timor.
In the first few days of their deployment Interfet said they had received no information to suggest there had been recent violence in the enclave.
One day later they said they had started to collect evidence of recent atrocities.
Now soldiers operating in Oekussi-Ambino have told journalists that four bodies are lying in a field not far from the enclave's major town.
But Interfet troops refuse to take journalists to the site saying they had not secured the area. [...]
[...] "I saw the most terrible thing that will stay in my memory forever. I saw a man being executed. He was a Timorese man.... His back was facing me and I could see that his hands were tied. He was naked and being pulled backwards by a piece of wire towards a flagpole. When he arrived at the flagpole, I saw his head being cut off with a machete or a sword. I saw his head fall off onto the ground. I could not see the person who cut off his head because my vision was obstructed by one of the TNI's legs in the truck." (Eyewitness testimony from a 17-year old East Timorese girl)
Amnesty attacks UN for failing victims in Timor Amnesty International says the United Nations is failing the victims of war crimes in East Timor.
The human rights group says delays in getting the promised UN investigation team to East Timor is unacceptable.
The special international investigation into alleged war crimes was announced last month but the five-member [!] UN investigation team met for the first time in Geneva this week.
They are not expected to reach East Timor until late next week and Amnesty International is just one human rights group to express concern at the delay.
Amnesty says the UN risks losing valuable evidence through the coming monsoon or by deliberate sabotage.
Even the UN concedes that some evidence may be lost.
But it says it is confident that UNAMET is documenting whatever finds it makes and the UN team needs time to determine the right places to go and what support they might need when they get there.
[...] The big unanswered question in Suai is where the thousands of missing residents are and when they will be able to come home. At the burnt-out cathedral in Suai, brightly coloured flower petals placed in a ring of small stones mark the spot where a local priest, Father Hilario, was shot dead by an East Timorese soldier in the Indonesian army on September 6th.
Nearby, 24 bodies were found after militias followed this act by spraying bullets into the crowd of terrified people here who sought sanctuary. I counted 140 bullet holes on one wall of the church and 40 on another. All the classrooms in the school had been burned or wrecked and the ground was littered with children's exercise books and patches of blood. [...]