UN MISSION IN TIMOR: IMPOTENT AND VULNERABLE UN officials hacked to death by militias as UN flees mission

In an action replay of the violence which followed the referendum on August 30 1999 in East Timor, 4 UN officials of UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) have been tortured to death and killed by groups of pro-Indonesia militiamen. Furious that their leader, Olivio Maruk, had been killed by a rival gang of bandits, hundreds of militiamen spread panic and a trail of destruction in Atambua, 30 kilometres from the East Timor border. The population of Atambua was an easy target, because 90,000 refugees from East Timor were staying there, too afraid to go back to their newly-independent country, for fear of reprisals by the pro-Indonesian militia. Their only crime had been to vote for independence from a fascist, military dictatorship. As the soldiers of the Indonesian army looked impassively at these scenes of terror, three UN officials were attacked, chopped to pieces inside their delegation and their bodies were then thrown on a fire. These officials were : Pero Simundza (Bosnia-Croatia) Samson Aregahegn (Ethiopia) Carlos Casseras (USA) A fourth, unnamed UN official was killed in his hotel room. The UN command immediately gave orders for the remaining 54 officials to be removed to the East Timorese side. The UN security council convoked an emergency session, at which President Clinton said he was “deeply saddened” by what had happened. These are the words that are used, every time, when such events happen. It is quite unacceptable that on the threshold of the third millennium, the United Nations Organization is forced to flee a mission because a band of savages, armed with machetes, decides to taste revenge for a local feud between criminals. It is also totally unacceptable that UN personnel, soldiers of peace, are tortured, massacred and burnt. There are suspicions, and very well-founded suspicions, that Indonesian Army soldiers integrate the militia groups…in civilian clothes. If Indonesia cannot, or will not, control these elements, and if sanctions are not imposed on Jakarta by the international community, the killing will continue and the UN will continue to run.

Tim BANKROFT-HINCHEY Correspondent of PRAVDA.Ru Lissabon

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