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More and more hear dreaded knock at the door

Sydney Morning Herald - June 14, 1997

Dili – On the outskirts of Baucau near the military airport, two stones on the road mark the place where Amaro Belo, a 35-year-old East Timorese, was gunned down by troops of the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) last Friday night at 6pm.

As a suspected intermediary between the pro-independence Fretilin guerillas and their supporters, he was one of the many victims of the crackdown by the Indonesian military in response to guerilla attacks to disrupt the elections a fortnight ago.

In Baucau alone, at least 20 local people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. Two of those captured by the Kopassus, Saul Eelo and Pantaleao, both in their early 20s, are not among those in the prison and are thought by their friends to have been executed.

According to a spokesperson for the clandestine resistance movement in Baucau: "Many who have been in contact with us in the past or who are members cannot be found. We don't know whether the military has them or they have fled or they have been killed – every night more people disappear."

The military trucks which pass through the town now only travel in threes. The soldiers, wearing flak jackets, train their M-16 rifles and machineguns on the few people on the streets. Some Timorese defiantly wear black ribbons in memory of the recent dead. Almost all of the businesses are closed and the main marketplace is deserted.

By 7pm, the streets of Baucau are empty except for the occasional military convoy moving slowly through the town, prompting a chorus of barking from the hundreds of stray dogs. "It is at night they come to kill us – we try to stay in different houses so they don't find us," said a young resident.

The situation is mirrored in the territory's capital, Dili. The arrests of Americo Fatima da Costa from his home in the Dili suburb of Becora at 4am last Saturday and Felipe da Costa one hour later in the same area, exemplify the tactics used by the Indonesian military.

The pre-dawn raids amplify the terror and uncertainty among the population. Often, particular arrests are denied by the authorities the following day. The secretive nature of the Indonesian military leads families to expect the worst: torture followed by execution. The appearance of four fresh graves in the cemetery in Hera, 200 kilometres east of Dili, on Monday night has led to speculation that they might hold the the bodies of the four resistance members arrested shortly after the attack on a Dili police post on May 28, the night before voting in the national elections.

None of the youths has been located at any of the detention centres since their arrest, and inquiries from their families have been left unanswered.

Similar fears of torture and execution are held for seven youths detained after the polling day violence in the Ermera district 100 kilometres south-west of Dili.

The seven are being held in the police camp in Atabae, where resistance sources say they have been subject to electric shocks and beatings.

Following the death of an Indonesian officer of the Rajawali Battalion in the election day attacks in Ermera, the garrison has been reinforced. Two guerilla fighters, Mau-Leki and Raemerhai, are being held incommunicado in the Ermera police camp.

An Indonesian doctor working in the town said that since the outbreak of violence he was worried about his own safety and that of his staff, adding that the mood among the Timorese in Ermera was such that any Indonesian, no matter what their attitude, was in danger – especially at night.

The killing in the far eastern town of Los Palos last week of an East Timorese couple who openly collaborated with the Indonesians is a signal that old scores are being settled by both sides.

The source of the fire which destroyed Dili's central market early last Sunday is another cause for dispute. The authorities said it was the work of the "security disturbing group" – their term for the guerillas.

Resistance members in Dili denied involvement and point to the mysterious arrest and subsequent release of a Javanese man found in the market by police as the fire took hold.