/** reg.easttimor: 3472.0 **/

** Topic: UN men describe horrors of Dili 'hell' **
** Written 3:10 AM Sep 13, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: UN men describe horrors of Dili 'hell'

The Australian 12 September 99

UN men describe horrors of 'hell'


THE war-hardened British officer thought he'd seen hell in Kosovo. Then he saw Dili.

"I came out of Kosovo, and what I've seen in Timor is worse much worse," Major John Petrie, a former instructor of Australia's military police, told The Sunday Telegraph.

As they cracked open their first cold beer in a Darwin hotel yesterday, Major Petrie and fellow British soldier Lieutenant-Colonel Nigel Dransfield spoke with emotion about the chaos and destruction they had witnessed in Dili.

They had flown out of Dili with 380 United Nations staff, including East Timorese staff and their families, on Friday's last plane.

Crouched in trucks surrounded by Indonesian soldiers, the men caught only glimpses of Dili on their way to the airport. But the glimpses they caught shocked them.

"Nothing was standing, there was just a smell of smoke and militia roaming the streets taking everything," Col Dransfield said.

"You could see where families had tried to evacuate; mattresses and clothing lined up ready to take with them. But something had happened, and they'd fled."

Martial law, with its promise to disarm and detain anyone on the streets, didn't apply to the militia, Col Dransfield said.

Even these combat-hardened soldiers, who have seen action in Bosnia, Kosovo and Northern Ireland, were visibly upset as they spoke of the terror and lawlessness in East Timor.

"I have never come so close to being killed," said Major Petrie, who was in UN buildings in Baucau when militia fired directly at them last Tuesday.

"We are so worried about the people we left behind; with a couple of battalions, we could have sorted this all out."

The last week of the siege in the Dili compound had been horrific, they said.

Every night for the past three nights, men, women and children had climbed barbed wire in darkness to try to head for the hills.

"They evaporated, they simply disappeared," Col Dransfield said.

But these men, like many of the 135 UN staff flown out on Friday, could think only of returning to the chaos.

They have pleaded with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to be allowed to return.

"It's the most dangerous place to be, but I don't care any more," UN worker Cely Rezene said.

"I may die there, but I don't care. This cannot be allowed to happen."

UN workers told The Sunday Telegraph they believed the terror had been carefully planned and systematically carried out.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **