East Timorese Tell Terrible Tales
Sep. 11, 1999
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ A jail cell stacked with bodies. A massacre in a church. A woman who heard her boyfriend scream as he was tortured and killed.
East Timorese are telling tales of horror.
The accounts are numerous, brutal and impossible to verify. Independent observers have been chased out of the territory by pro-Indonesian militias and government troops over the past week.
But if only a fraction are true, the people of East Timor are living through a nightmare. Tens of thousands could face starvation with food supplies choked off.
Machete-wielding militias, often aided by well-armed troops, have gone on a rampage over the last week after a U.N.-organized referendum showed a huge majority of the province's 800,000 people favored breaking away from Indonesia.
In one of the most shocking reports, Australian Isa Bradridge said in an interview in the Sydney Morning Herald that his wife saw ``thousands of bodies'' piled in a large jail cell in the police station in Dili, East Timor's capital.
``Stacks of bodies up to the roof,'' Bradridge was quoted as saying. ``I know it is hard to believe, but it is absolutely true. My wife saw arms and legs dripping blood.''
Aid agencies estimate that anywhere between 600 and 7,000 people have been killed, 100,000 driven into West Timor or to other islands, and 200,000 more chased from their homes.
Indonesia has denied reports of atrocities or downplayed them, acknowledging only ``rogue elements'' in the military or expressing sympathy with militiamen loyal to Indonesia.
Jose Ramos Horta, an East Timorese independence campaigner and Nobel Peace laureate, said at a Pacific Rim summit in Auckland, New Zealand, that he had word that bloodletting was continuing.
According to Horta, Indonesian special forces went to Dare, a seminary town outside Dili, and opened fire on tens of thousands of refugees.
``There was blood everywhere, screaming, and conditions there have just become too precarious,'' Ramos-Horta said.
In Kupang, a seaport in West Timor, on the other half of the island, where tens of thousands of East Timorese have fled or been deported, Mary Barudero, 64, a Roman Catholic nun, told of a massacre in a church building that prompted the Vatican to accuse Indonesia of systematically targeting clergy.
Barudero was quoted in the Jakarta newspaper Suara Pembaruan as telling of what she saw from a building next to the church in the town of Suai where as many as 100 people were hiding.
``They came to the church because they thought it would be safe,'' Barudero was quoted as saying. ``They felt that if they were near the priests, they would be protected.''
Then the militias came. Brandishing guns and machetes, they surrounded the church and shouted death threats.
One of the three priests came out to calm the mob. He was gunned down. Another came out. He was killed too, she said.
The militiamen raked the church with gunfire and lobbed grenades inside, killing a third priest and a large number of the frightened East Timorese, mostly women and children, she said.
In Darwin, Australia, where 350 U.N. workers were flown Friday in an evacuation from Dili, Carenega Dos Santos, 19, said that police and militiamen killed her boyfriend.
An East Timorese U.N. employee, Dos Santos said she and her boyfriend, identified only as Lopez, were arrested by police and militiamen in the town of Los Paulos.
The couple was taken to the town's district military headquarters, where they were put in separate rooms.
She said she heard interrogators applying electric shocks to Lopez and cutting him to make him reveal names of independence supporters, she said. He screamed. The militia eventually killed him, Dos Santos said.
A priest persuaded authorities to free her, she said.
Enia Rompi, 17, said she was separated a week ago from her parents and five siblings.
She said she had been threatened with rape by militiamen whom she believed were often drunk or on drugs supplied by the Indonesian army.
She said many men joined militias because they were frightened for their families if they did not cooperate with the security forces.