By Jon Land
There are grave fears for the well-being of several East Timorese youths missing after Indonesian soldiers ransacked the villages of Turin and Taitudak in the Alas subdistrict on November 15.
Eyewitnesses said that four youths in Taitudak were tortured by soldiers and dragged naked through the village. Their hair and ears had been cut. Two of the youths had their hands pierced.
On November 13, the local liurai [chief] for Taitudak, Vicente, was taken away by the military along with another four youths to the village of Barike. According to the National Council of Timorese Resistance in Dili, they were all executed at Barike.
The church at Taitudak was desecrated by soldiers, who shot at the local priest and catechist as they fled. The whereabouts of the two are unknown.
There have been reports of a large military build-up throughout the Manufahi and Same districts as well, where East Timorese suspected of supporting the armed resistance are being harassed and detained.
A statement from Falintil commander Falur Atelai, released by the East Timor International Support Centre (ETISC) on November 16, said that "the situation in Manufahi is very alarming" and called for an immediate investigation.
The military actions are reprisal for a resistance attack in Alas on November 9, when a military post was overrun, resulting in the deaths of three soldiers and the capture of another 12. A considerable cache of guns and ammunition was also taken.
Ten soldiers were released the following day, while two have been held hostage. Falintil field commander Taur Matan Ruak has reportedly said that the soldiers will be executed if the military does not withdraw from Alas.
There are also concerns for the safety of a considerable number of East Timorese prisoners who have been beaten and moved secretly from their place of detention. ETISC released an urgent appeal on November 17, based on a message from a prisoner smuggled out of Bacau prison.
The message stated that eight prisoners taken from Bacau prison on November 8 were still missing: "We are really worried about our friends. The circumstances under which they have gone missing are really strange. We do not discount the possibility that they have been killed by the military."
The East Timor Human Rights Centre is also concerned for the safety of 26 prisoners who were transferred from Becora prison in Dili to the military prison at Balide, another suburb of Dili. They were rounded up on the night of October 30 and severely beaten with rifle butts, allegedly for shouting independence slogans during peaceful demonstrations which had occurred throughout Dili earlier that day.