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Mass Graves Found in East Timor

Friday November 26

Associated Press Writer

DILI, East Timor (AP) - The bodies of 25 people, including three Roman Catholic priests, have been exhumed from graves in West Timor - evidence of what is believed to be the worst massacre of East Timor's September upheaval, officials said today.

The victims allegedly were killed by anti-independence militias and Indonesian troops in East Timor in the days after the territory's Aug. 30 vote to become independent from Indonesia.

A top U.N. investigator vowed to bring the killers to justice.

``We will follow up on all the evidence found in West Timor,'' said Sonia Pikado, a Costa Rican lawmaker who heads the U.N. team investigating allegations of East Timor atrocities.

The decaying corpses were discovered at Oeuli Beach, two miles from the border with the eastern half of the island, Indonesian investigators said.

The victims are believed to have been slaughtered in a Sept. 6 attack on two churches in Suai, a town in East Timor close to the border, said Munir, a member of the commission investigating alleged crimes by Indonesian troops and their militia proxies in East Timor. The panel was set up by the government in Jakarta to act as an independent probe of human rights abuses.

According to witnesses, dozens of people who took refuge in the churches of Ave Maria and Nossa Senhora de Fatima were shot or hacked to death by militiamen supported by Indonesian soldiers and police. The Vatican has said more than 100 people died.

``We have found three bodies in the first grave, 11 in the second grave and 11 in the third grave,'' Munir was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

Munir, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said autopsies on the three priests determined that one had been shot while the other two died of knife wounds.

In Dili, East Timor's capital, Father Filomino of the Jesuit Refugee Service said he was outraged by the killing of the priests and ``hundreds'' of people who had sheltered in the two churches.

Dominique Liengme, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the organization would transfer the priests' bodies to Dili today. The international peacekeeping force would arrange for the transport of the other victims, she said.

The killings in Suai are generally considered to be the deadliest incident in the three-week militia rampage that followed East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum. The territory is now under U.N. administration and being primed for self-rule.

While no one disputes that pro-Indonesian forces destroyed many cities and towns in East Timor and left hundreds of thousands of citizens homeless, the number of victims found so far is nowhere near the thousands that international organization originally estimated had been killed.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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