Files prove UK knew of Timor invasion plan

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The Independent Online

Official documents released yesterday finally confirmed what has long been suspected - Western governments, including Australia, and probably Britain, knew in advance about the secret Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 in which five Western journalists were killed.

Official documents released yesterday finally confirmed what has long been suspected - Western governments, including Australia, and probably Britain, knew in advance about the secret Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 in which five Western journalists were killed.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, released 885 pages of diplomatic cables covering the period around October 1975, when hundreds of Indonesian soldiers invaded East Timor disguised as pro-Jakarta Timorese. Five television journalists, including two Britons, were killed in an attack on the town of Balibo. Witnesses said they were murdered by Indonesian soldiers while trying to surrender.

Advance warning of the invasion, precursor of a full-scale air and sea assault in December 1975, came from an academic at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a government think-tank. Canberra and London often share diplomatic information, and it seems likely Britain knew too.

Both countries first condemned the invasion, then quickly accepted the bloody Indonesian occupation in which as many as 200,000 people died over 24 years. East Timor broke away from Indonesia last September after weeks of violence.

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