/** reg.easttimor: 2853.0 **/

** Topic: SMH in Dili: As the UN dwindles, Dili burns **
** Written 10:10 AM Sep 7, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: SMH in Dili: As the UN dwindles, Dili burns

Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, September 8, 1999

As the UN dwindles, Dili burns

By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald Correspondent in Dili

There are not many of us left, here in the United Nations' besieged compound. It seems the military's operation, to terrify the UN and media out of Dili, is running right on schedule. Large parts of Dili were ablaze last night as about 80 UN officials, including 40 Australian Federal police, and 10 foreign journalists, desperately resisted pressure from the military, police and militia to evacuate to Darwin.

The compound had come under direct fire yesterday and the utter despair was articulated by Ian Martin, the head of the UN mission in East Timor, as a line of mothers queued at the door, waiting to see a UN doctor.

The first mother was crying. Along the line, others were either crying or appeared distressed. Asked what would happen to them if we all left, Mr Martin could not answer. Asked what would happen if the killers came over the fence, he hesitated, then said: "We die."

Mrs Aida Ramos Horta de Assis, the sister of the exiled 1996 Nobel Peace prize winner, Mr Jose Ramos Horta, arrived in a distressed state at the compound last night, after being threatened by an Indonesian military officer who broke into her home. She said the man demanded to know of her: "You are in Indonesia now. Why do you want independence?"

When she was leaving the house, an Indonesian military officer had told her: "Don't go to UNAMET because we are going to bombard it tonight."

UN sources said East Timor's military commander, Colonel Noer Muis, had been sacked and a high-ranking military intelligence officer appointed to replace him. When told of the sacking, Colonel Muis is believed to have wept.

Last night, UN officials negotiated with the new military commander to replace the police who were supposedly guarding the compound with recently arrived Indonesian combat troops. As the police left, they fired volleys of shots into the air. But the UN officials have been told the new commander has imposed a 9pm curfew. Over the next two days, anybody seen on the streets would be warned and told to go home. After that, curfew breakers would be executed on sight.

Diplomats and analysts believe months of violence and intimidation directed at the independence movement has been masterminded by Indonesia's covert military intelligence services. Mr Martin said he could not rule out a complete evacuation "if the security situation makes it irresponsible to stay".

With gun shots ringing out as he spoke, Mr Martin said the UN's continued presence in East Timor was symbolically important to the East Timorese, whose vote on August 30 to reject Indonesia's rule has triggered the bloodbath in the territory. But there are now no UN staff outside Dili.

Earlier yesterday, the UN evacuated about 100 staff from the town of Baucau after militia, Indonesian soldiers and police opened fire on its compound in the town. Armed militia repeatedly tried to force their way into the compound but were stoppedby Indonesian soldiers. UN staff dived for cover as shots slammed into UN buildings.

About 35 people - mainly Australians - were evacuated from the Australian consulate in Dili yesterday after the militia terrorised people inside throughout the previous night. The militia fired repeated volleys of gunfire, some slamming into the building, and set fire to a building across the road. About five of these people, including the consul, Mr James Batley, were remaining in Dili last night.

Late yesterday afternoon, Dili's electricity, telephone and water supplies were abruptly cut. A huge fireball could be seen about 2kilometres from the United Nation's compound, believed to be the capital's Telcom building. The main Indonesian university and courthouse also were burnt to the ground.

UN officials believe the Indonesian military set alight the buildings which house all the capital's infrastructure.

The officials, who fear the death toll is in the hundreds, possibly thousands, scoffed when they heard Indonesia's President, Dr B.J.Habibie, had authorised the imposition of martial law in an attempt to end the violence. "Martial law will only give these killers more cover," one official said. "The whole thing would be a joke if it wasn't so tragic." Entire suburbs of Dili have been cleared of people, some of them herded at gun-point on to trucks. UN officials have been told the Indonesian authorities plan to evacuate up to 200,000 people to Atambua, at the border with the Indonesian province of Nusa Tengarra Timur, claiming they want to flee. But Mr Martin confirmed many had been taken against their will.

Meanwhile, UN staff can only travel from the UN compound to Dili's airport where Australian RAAF Hercules are running shuttle evacuation flights. We have a reasonable chance of making it alive, with an Indonesian police escort along roads controlled by rampaging killers. It is small comfort that our protectors are the same police and soldiers who are commanding this cleansing of Dili.

But many East Timorese will not have even a reasonable chance if the UN evacuates completely.

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