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Two die at East Timor shrine after flag clash

Reuters - October 8, 1997

Jim Della-Giacoma, Jakarta &150; Two died in fighting at an East Timor mountain shrine including a man who tried to erect a banner bearing the guerrilla movement Fretilin's flag, military sources said on Wednesday.

A pilgrimage to the top of the territory's highest mountain, the 2,963-metre (9,778- foot) Mount Tatamaileu, also known as Ramelau, was to have been led by East Timor's two Roman Catholic bishops.

They cancelled the visit after the clash.

Trouble broke out after Ardilino Da Silva, 36, from the town of Baucau, tried to erect the banner near a statue of the Virgin Mary, East Timor military information officer Captain Tri Yoga Budi Prasetyo told Reuters by telephone from the capital Dili.

Those taking part objected on the grounds it was a religious and not a political occasion, Tri Yoga said.

After this Da Silva began running towards the shrine. He was blocked by two church scouts, who were acting as security for the occasion.

"At that point Da Silva took out a sharp weapon and stabbed the two youths," Tri Yoga said. One later died. "After the stabbing other scouts set upon Da Silva and beat him to death."

Security forces were not present, he said, and no arrests had been made. The case was being investigated.

East Timor, a mainly Roman Catholic territory, was annexed by predominantly Moslem Indonesia in 1976 in a move not recognised by the United Nations, which still regards Portugal as the administering power.

Last week, two school teachers were killed near Bacau in an attack blamed on rebels resisting Indonesia's rule.

Nobel laureate and overseas resistance spokesman Jose Ramos-Horta said on Tuesday the teachers were killed by Indonesian security forces to discredit the resistance movement.

Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo of the Dili diocese and Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of the Baucau diocese cancelled their planned walk to the summit after the fight, church sources said.

However, Tri Yoga said the ceremony, which involved around 10,000 people, went ahead led by a local pastor.

In a separate incident, 17 people were killed when a truck plunged into a ravine while carrying participants back from the ceremony.

The official Antara news agency said the truck plunged into a 25-metre (80-ft) deep ravine near Ledeluli village in Ermera area about 35 km (22 miles) from Dili.