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Army denies report one East Timorese shot dead

Reuters - November 14, 1997

Jakarta – At least one East Timorese student was killed on Friday when security personnel fired shots on a university campus in the territory's capital Dili, students said.

A military official denied there had been any deaths.

One student source told Reuters by phone from Dili: "The troops fired shots towards the students and I saw one student fall. Later I heard one student had died."

Other sources said there might have been more casualties.

A military official on duty in Dili confirmed there had been an incident at the University of East Timor campus but said everything had returned to normal.

"Everything has returned to normal, and it's not true there were any deaths," he said.

A diplomatic source in Jakarta said three people had been severely wounded by bullets and had been taken to a military hospital. Officials at the hospital refused comment.

Manuel Abrantes of the Commission for Peace and Justice, a group linked to the Roman Catholic Church, told TSF radio in Portugal that the incident erupted after a row between three Timorese students and two plainclothes Indonesian army members. East Timor is a former Portuguese colony.

Abrantes said the students challenged them and asked them what they were doing on the campus.

The officials fled but came back with soldiers and the shooting started, Abrantes said.

"Ten minutes later they came back with more Indonesian soldiers all armed and they started to shoot," he said.

Eight youths had been injured, three seriously, he said, adding 13 students were arrested and taken for interrogation. Church sources in Dili said they believed the authorities had detained 11 students.

ImAbrantes said Indonesian officials had prevented the Red Cross and humanitarian organisations from entering the university after the incidents.

"Inside the university there was panic and we could only contact them by phone...the military authorities did not let the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations in," he said.

An office worker in Dili's city centre near the governor's office, about a kilometre (less than a mile) from the university, said the shooting could be heard across town.

Students said two plainclothes intelligence agents had been watching activity on the campus following a candlelight vigil on Wednesday marking the 1991 anniversary of a massacre by troops in Dili.

The students contacted by phone said police and later troops moved onto the campus to break up a fight involving students and the intelligence agents.

The students said security authorities had shot sporadically into the air.

One visitor to the university after the incident said there were large pools of blood in one classroom with a trail of blood indicating at least one person had been dragged away.

The candlelight vigil on Wednesday marked the anniversary of the 1991 massacre in which troops killed 50 anti-Indonesian demonstrators, by official count.

Eyewitnesses and human rights groups have said up to 180 people died.

Indonesian authorities on Thursday deported a 34-year-old American woman, Lynn Anne Fredriksson, after police accused her "disturbing public order" at the commemoration ceremony in Dili.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in December 1975 and incorporated it as its 27th province the following July in a move still not recognised by the United Nations.