Survivors of slaughter tell how militias ran amok

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United Nations relief workers evacuated from West Timor after the slaughter of three of their colleagues say that militia killers are now making house-to-house searches for any remaining staff.

United Nations relief workers evacuated from West Timor after the slaughter of three of their colleagues say that militia killers are now making house-to-house searches for any remaining staff.

A further 69 international and local aid workers were evacuated from Atambua in West Timor yesterday by the Indonesian military, who drove them to theborder with East Timor where they were met by UN peace-keeping forces.

Nearly 240 UN staff and their dependants have now left for East Timor or the resort island of Bali after three foreign employees of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) were beaten to death and burnt.

Indonesia's military said the murders were due to a local dispute, but there were fears of a darker strategy to damage an already weak President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Ray Raivoce, a Fijian security officer with the UN, said: "The situation in Atambua is very tense at the moment and the militia are going house to house looking for international and national staff." All international and local workers are now thought to have been evacuated from Atambua, though there are fears that some local workers may still be in hiding.

As yesterday's evacuees assembled in the East Timorese border town of Batugade before being flown to the capital, Dili, they related grim accounts of the killings of Carlos Caceres, 31, a US national; Pero Simundza, a 26-year-old Croatian; and Samson Aregahegn, an Ethiopian in his mid-forties.

"The militia group arrived very suddenly," said Ray Raivoce, who was responsible for the safety of all international staff in Atambua. "I told two staff members to jump over the back fence. Then I was told by the head of office to check the front. By that time the militia had jumped into the compound, even though the gates were locked," he said.

"We tried to jump over the fence. I was on the wall trying to grab one of the three staff still inside. As I was getting out I saw one of my colleagues cut in the head with a machete. He was the first to die."

Mr Raivoce escaped from the militia mob when a local woman hid him in her house. "I was told later that the three killed were knifed, then their bodies were cut into pieces and burnt," he said.

Other international workers spoke of how they were chased down the street by militia members carrying home-made guns, machetes and stones.

"I was in the UNHCR office, but I managed to get out," said Hiroko Nakamura, an aid worker from Japan.

"I ran to the hotel and the militia followed. I was saved by a local family who hid me. The militia were shouting, 'Where are the foreigners?' and went to another hotel where they attacked a Brazilian tourist. I saw her later, her head was bleeding and she was traumatised."

According to the UN workers, the Indonesian military (TNI) was unable to control the crowd as it marched into Atambua. Mr Raivoce said: "The TNI were informed it would be a peaceful demo. I was told by a TNI officer that they now feel betrayed by the militia."

Johannes Usboko, an Indonesian aid worker, said: "The TNI and police did nothing. It's general knowledge that some TNI work with the militia."

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