East Timor crisis: Body found in search for missing journalist

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A BODY, believed to be that of a missing Financial Times journalist was discovered on the outskirts of the East Timor capital, Dili, late last night.

Sander Thoenes, 30, Jakarta correspondent of the FT, who went missing on Tuesday while on a motorbike trip to a suburb of Dili, is believed to have been murdered. A body fitting his description and showing signs of violence was discovered during the night.

The circumstances of the discovery of the body were not known, but Australian peace-keeping troops had been searching for Mr Thoenes.

The FT said last night it was aware of the reports and was attempting to confirm them.

Mr Thoenes, a Dutch national, had arrived in Dili earlier yesterday to relieve another correspondent. "Like everybody else, he was there covering the arrival of the UN peace-keeping forces," the newspaper's foreign editor, William Dawkins, said. Mr Thoenes spoke fluent Indonesian and also worked for the Dutch weekly, Vrij Nederlands.

Earlier, two western journalists were rescued by Australian peace-keeping troops after their taxi was attacked by pro-Indonesia militia forces.

Jon Swain of the Sunday Times and Chip Hires, an American photographer had fled to woodland close to Dili after their taxi was ambushed. The driver of the car, a local man, was reported earlier to have been killed by a shot through the head. The third passenger, a Timorese interpreter, was apparently taken prisoner.Before their rescue, they had told the Sunday Times that they were unhurt, although shots were being fired around them.

The paper's managing editor, Richard Caseby, said: "They were stopped by the militia. There was a serious attack on the driver - unconfirmed, I believe his eye was gouged out - and the translator was taken away by the militia. Jon and the photographer escaped and they went to hide in some bush and woodland nearby."

Mr Swain, 51, is an award-winning journalist and has worked for the Sunday Times for 26 years. He has been a correspondent in Vietnam and Cambodia and the story of how his life was saved by a translator was portrayed in the film The Killing Fields.

The incidents raise serious questions about the safety of Western correspondents covering the peace-keeping operation.