Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 9:00:15 PDT

FREIBURG, Germany, Sept 9 (AFP) - Most of the 40 local employees with the Catholic humanitarian organisation Caritas in East Timor have been murdered, the German branch of Caritas International announced here Thursday.

The employees were caught up in the violence that has engulfed the territory in the wake of the August 30 vote in favour of independence from Indonesia.

The head of Caritas in East Timor, Father Francisco Baretto who is Timorese, as well as a "large part of the Caritas team have been murdered," according to a statement read by a spokesman of the German branch of Caritas.

"Other colleagues fled to West Timor or are hiding in the hills," the spokesman said. He said the information came from people in East Timor but that he had no details on the murders.

The only non-Timorese Caritas worker in East Timor, a Norwegian, left for West Timor several days ago, the spokesman said.

Caritas "renewed its call for an immediate intervention of a peace force under the aegis of the UN to put an end to the violence," he added.