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East Timor rebels accused of killing 12

Straits Times - September 23, 1997

Jakarta – The Indonesian military has accused East Timorese rebels of killing five soldiers and seven civilians in the troubled territory, it was reported yesterday.

The Merdeka daily quoted East Timor military commander Colonel Slamat Sidabutar as saying that the attack was launched by Fretilin rebels last Thursday in Kairua village in Manatuto district, about 80 km from the territory's capital of Dili.

The report said that the rebels launched two attacks on soldiers and civilians working on a construction project in the district.

On Thursday morning, armed Fretilin members attacked a truck carrying civilian workers, killing five men.

That afternoon, they attacked a military vehicle, killing five soldiers and two civilians, Merdeka reported.

The Indonesian security authorities in East Timor declined to comment when contacted by telephone yesterday.

However, a Dili resident reported that the killings occurred, saying that one instead of two civilians died in the second attack.

Fretilin guerillas have been fighting for an independent East Timor since Jakarta annexed the former Portuguese colony in 1976. The United Nations still regards Lisbon as East Timor's official administrator.

Col Sidabutar said that the attacks were carried out to attract international attention to the Fretilin movement. "The Fretilin members only want to create sensational news to give the notion that East Timor is not secure," he said. Thursday's killings were the first major incident since late May when the rebels launched a month-long series of attacks on civilian and military targets, leaving almost 40 people dead.