'A cynical bandit and vicious murderer'

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The Independent Online

"The leader of the Succuna militia is a person known as Moko Soares. As far as I'm concerned he is a cynical bandit and a vicious murderer. I believe that man has a blood lust, and he has little regard for the people of Oecussi."

"The leader of the Succuna militia is a person known as Moko Soares. As far as I'm concerned he is a cynical bandit and a vicious murderer. I believe that man has a blood lust, and he has little regard for the people of Oecussi."

The speaker was Lieutenant Colonel Peter Singh of the Third Royal Australian Regiment, in charge of security in the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi. Australian officers are not usually so forthright in their public assessments of militia leaders. But Laurentino Soares, aka Moko, is an exceptionally evil character.

His childish nickname means "no teeth", and he began his career as the chief of the village of Cunha. By the beginning of last year, he was in close contact with local commanders of the Indonesian military, who supplied him with automatic weapons. In Oecussi, the small fragment of East Timor stranded in Indonesia, he has a demonic reputation.

During their two-week rampage last September, the East Timorese militias, including Moko's Succuna ("scorpion"), engaged routinely in arson and kidnapping - and when Moko's arrest warrant is issued, probably within a few days, it will cite both of these crimes.

But his particular gift is for ingeniously cruel forms of murder. Eyewitnesses speak of one occasion last year when a Timorese man was press-ganged into joining Succuna. Moko took the man to his home village, where he was forced to shoot his own uncle. He was then taken to a neighbouring village where, before his eyes, Moko himself executed the man's brother.

Oecussi's remoteness, enclosed by the sea on one side and Indonesian territory on the other, has made it a particular headache for the international peace-keepers. It took more than a month for Australian soldiers even to land there - in the intervening time, Moko and his militia continued their rampage unchecked. In Oecussi, almost 50,000 of the enclave's 58,000 inhabitants had either fled or been driven away.

Even now, Succuna continues to mount raids from West Timor, without any hindrance from the Indonesian military. The United Nations knows that Moko will never simply be handed over, for he knows too much. But his presence may become enough of an embarrassment for his Indonesian patrons to call him off - or more. "With a bit of luck, they'll get sick of hearing his name," said one Dili resident. "And one day someone will quietly bump him off."

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