- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

DILI, East Timor Thousands of armed militiamen and their supporters rampaged through a U.N. office in West Timor, killing at least three workers including one from Puerto Rico and burning their bodies. The brutal attack brought new pressure against Indonesia's president as he gathered with world leaders at the United Nations.

Four U.N. helicopters swooped down to the border town of Atambua and safely evacuated 54 persons to East Timor, but world leaders quickly and harshly castigated Indonesia for not doing more to protect aid workers. Witnesses said Indonesian security forces stood by as the mobs torched the U.N. office and beat the workers.

The unprecedented violence one U.N. official said it was one of the worst attacks on U.N. personnel anywhere in the world cast a shadow over the U.N. Millennium Summit, which opened yesterday in New York. More than 150 leaders, including Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, stood for a moment of silence in honor of the victims, who were from the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

President Clinton said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the deaths. "I urge the Indonesian authorities to put a stop to these abuses."

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he had taken up the killings with the Indonesian government "at the highest level."

The militias and their military sponsors have been blamed by the United Nations and Mr. Wahid's government for carrying out the bloody destruction of East Timor a year ago after its people voted to break free of Indonesian rule in a U.N.-supervised referendum.

Indonesia still controls the western part of the island, where the U.N. agency has been delivering aid to an estimated 90,000 refugees who remain in border camps after fleeing the violence in East Timor 12 months ago.

The rampage in the border town of Atambua was apparently triggered by the killing Tuesday of a militiaman opposed to East Timor's independence. Witnesses said some in the crowd accused the United Nations of not paying attention to their plight in the west.

The violence threw into question repeated promises by Mr. Wahid to rein in the anti-independence militias or to control sections of the Indonesian army accused of arming and training them. It may result in calls for the convening of an international war crimes tribunal to try Indonesians accused of crimes against humanity in Timor.

Mr. Wahid's office later issued a statement expressing his condolences to the families of the victims and vowing to "find the culprit." The statement said troops and police were being sent to Atambua to help.

The "mishap," Mr. Wahid's statement read, "was triggered by the uncontrollable emotional distress of the people" over the killing of Olivia Mendoza Moruk.

Indonesian officials are already working with East Timor's U.N. administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the statement said. "One of the plans is to evacuate these problem-creating people to other places in Indonesia."

Mr. de Mello said the rampage was one of the worst attacks on U.N. personnel ever and described the militias as an out-of-control "monster" created by sections of the Indonesian military.

Norwegian army Col. Brynar Nymo said four helicopters from the East Timor town of Suai flew to Atambua to pick up survivors with the permission of Indonesian authorities.

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