Second massacre reported in Timor

Wednesday, November 27, 1991

By Norm Dixon

In the days following the Dili massacre reports from East Timor point to an escalation of repression and a reign of terror launched by the Indonesian military in the territory. The most horrific report indicates that at least 80 people were murdered in a second massacre on November 15. Other reports point to systematic campaign to eliminate witnesses of the massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery.

According to the human rights group TAPOL, 80 prisoners, most of them young people, were shot dead in the district of Bemos. TAPOL said reliable sources had reported that the captives were loaded into four trucks from the Dili Korem (military headquarters) and from detention centres in Taibesse and Manleuana and taken to Bemos.

Indonesian troops first forced the prisoners to strip naked. Their hands and feet were bound and they were blindfolded. After being loaded onto the trucks, they were covered with a huge tarpaulin so that no-one could see them.

At Bemos, the prisoners were taken from the trucks to the edge of a newly dug ditches and shot dead with machine-guns. The troops who carried out this premeditated slaughter, just three days after the massacre in Dili, were hooded, but it is known that they are from the 700th and 744th battalions, based in South Sulawesi.

A representative of the Melbourne Timorese community, Abel Gutteres, said that people in Dili had contacted relatives and corroborated the TAPOL account. Gutteres said the military was hunting down survivors of the first massacre in order to silence them before they could give evidence to any inquiry.

Since the second reported massacre, contacts in Dili have phoned Fretilin's representative in Australia, Alfredo Ferreira, and said a further 10 people have been murdered by troops. These people, including some children, were witnesses to the second massacre.

TAPOL also reports that the military has transferred many prisoners captured during and in the days following the Dili massacre to Kupang in Indonesian (west) Timor. This has been done to hide them from foreign observers visiting the territory and deny them access to International Red Cross protection.

Since the massacre, Dili residents have phoned relatives in Australia and Portugal to tell them that the Indonesian military, assisted by far-right Timorese vigilantes, has been rounding up young people. Roadblocks have been set up and houses raided by masked men in the dead of night.

Eyewitness reports of the massacre continue to surface, all contradicting the official Indonesian government version of events. According to Italian priest Father Stefanie Renato, in an account in the London Observer, the massacre was "a meticulously planned military operation aimed at killing the principal protesters against the occupation ... When several hundred mourners were inside pressing to get in, the army opened fire for two or three minutes, reloading their weapons when they were empty."

Chris Wenner, a journalist with Britain's Yorkshire Television, said that he saw at least 100 people killed. Max Stahl, a British camera operator who filmed the massacre, said the claim that Indonesian troops were responding to an attack was "absolute nonsense".

The Indonesian government account is that just 19 people were killed and 91 wounded on November 12. Apart from the many eyewitness accounts that dispute this, the military still refuses to give the International Red Cross the names of those killed. While the Red Cross has been given the names of those reported wounded, it has not been allowed to visit them. The US State Department, on November 20, also reported that, from evidence a US team had gathered, between 75 and 100 people had been killed.

The Indonesian military has indicated it may soon begin an all-out military offensive against Fretilin resistance fighters. The regional military commander, Major-General Sintong Panjaitan, said the military was to begin "combat operations". There are reports that Indonesian forces have already launched an offensive in Timor's east and centre.

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