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Another massacre in East Timor - 19 May 1999

17 Jun 1999 - Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Sydney Morning Herald

32 shot dead in massacre of villagers

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

A pro-Indonesian paramilitary group accompanied by Indonesian soldiers and intelligence agents shot and killed at least 32 unarmed civilians in a massacre at Atara village in the East Timor highlands, a human rights group said on Tuesday.

"Information we received this morning indicates 12 corpses identified. These are people killed in the village - shot dead," said a senior official from the Dili-based Foundation for Legal and Human Rights (Yayasan-Hak).

"There are more than 20 other people killed in a coffee plantation, but nobody has the courage to go in there because the militia is still waiting."

The official, who asked not to be named, said the attack occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning and lasted about 4 1/2 hours. Atara village is about 100 kilometres south of Dili.

The official quoted coffee farmers and local people who had fled Atara to Dili as saying the attackers comprised members of the Tim Pancasila militia, supported by Indonesian soldiers and intelligence operatives known by the local acronym SGI.

All the victims had been shot by military-style assault rifles.

The official showed a list of 12 named victims killed in Atara - all men aged between 25 and 40 years. Those shot dead in the nearby coffee plantation as they tried to flee the attack included women.

Three of those shot dead at Atara had been previous targets of militia threats over their support for the pro-independence movement. They included one Christian religious affairs teacher.

If confirmed, the massacre would rank as one of the worst committed by pro-Indonesian militias since last month, when paramilitary thugs backed by a local territorial army unit shot and killed up to 57 people in western Liquica. Local people say the true toll at Liquica may never be known because the bodies were removed for secret burial by army lorries.

One possible motive behind the Atara killings was the switch in support of local King Guilherme Maria Goncalves who lives in Portugal.

The former traditional Atsabe monarch dropped his support for the pro-integration movement in the mid-1990s.

"When the king resigned his supporters followed and that's why they were targeted," said the human rights official.

On Monday, the spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), Mr David Wimhurst, blamed armed militias and their supporters for trying to use violence to prevent the UN-organised ballot scheduled to take place on August 8. He said he had received independent confirmation of the Atara attack and claimed at least five people had been killed in their homes as they were preparing to leave for Mass.

In other reports of militia violence, villagers living near the coastal town of Batugade near the West Timor frontier have stopped eating large fish after human remains and jewellery were found in their catch last week, diplomats and human rights officials reported on Tuesday.

Mr Wimhurst said the UN specifically wanted Indonesian authorities to investigate those responsible for the Atara attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.

East Timor military commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, acknowledged the attack in Atara and said he was seeking further information, Mr Wimhurst said yesterday. Colonel Suratman also told the UN spokesman he would act to clear the area of militia road-blocks, but gave no timetable.

Meanwhile, American doctor Dan Murphy, whose Catholic clinic served as a casualty centre for recent victims of militia violence, returned to Dili on Tuesday to resume work after being ordered out of the country last weekend.

Dr Murphy was given a special "cultural" visa in Singapore and returned to Dili on a scheduled flight yesterday.


John M. Miller

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