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The BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Jakarta
"The UN succeeded in rescuing almost all aid workers"
 real 56k

The BBC's Terry Stiastny
"Indonesian soldiers watched the aid workers go"
 real 56k

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
"The safety of UN personnel is a matter of vital concern"
 real 56k

Jake Morland, UNHCR spokesman
"It is a very explosive situation"
 real 28k

Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Timor safety demanded
Sergio Vieira de Mello puts flowers on a coffin
The head of the UN in East Timor puts flowers on the coffin of one of the dead workers
The UN says the future of humanitarian operations in West Timor, where three UN staff were killed by pro-Jakarta militia gangs on Wednesday, depends on Indonesian security forces.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said it would resume its activities there only when it had received safety assurances from the Indonesian military command.

The UN's administrator in East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said the best hope for the tens of thousands of refugees trapped in West Timor was for the province to be saturated with fresh troops from other parts of Indonesia.

A few hundred extra troops and police did arrive in West Timor as the evacuation of all the UN's foreign aid workers reached completion.

Nearly 100 have been airlifted to safety in Bali.


This is the worst security incident that the UNHCR has faced

Sadako Ogato
The evacuees had been providing relief to about 100,000 East Timorese refugees living in camps in the province since the run-up to East Timor's independence vote last year.

Attack

On Wednesday, the UN office in Atambua was attacked by militiamen opposed to independence for East Timor, who blame the UN for what they believe was a corrupt referendum there last year.

Timor Map
At the Millennium Summit in New York, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, joined other representatives in condemning the attack.

"Our office was burnt, they went around man-hunting - looking for international staff to attack," she said. "It was a very, very barbaric act perpetrated by the militia elements."

She also revealed that one of the murdered staff had sent an e-mail warning that a mob was en route to destroy his compound.

"We sit here like bait, unarmed," wrote Puerto Rican Carlos Caceres.

"These guys act without thinking and can kill a human being as easily (and painlessly) as I kill mosquitoes in my room," he said in the message.

"I just hope I will be able to leave tomorrow," he had added.

Lives in danger

A UN spokesman said the evacuees had travelled from their office in Kupang to the airport in a heavily guarded convoy with soldiers and police lining the roads.

East Timorese refugees at the border (1999 file)
Nearly 100,000 refugees have not yet returned to East Timor
He said it was possible that aid workers would never return and that this would be the end of the UN operation in West Timor.

As well as Carlos Caseras, the dead have been identified as Ethiopian Samson Aregahegn and Bosnian Pero Simundza.

Hacked to death

The agency's chief spokesman in Geneva, Ron Redmond, told BBC News Online that the violence began shortly after the funeral procession for a militia leader passed by the UN compound.


The mishap was triggered by the uncontrollable emotional distress of the people

President Abdurrahman Wahid
As relief workers rushed to escape the mob over a fence at the rear, the three staff who died were trapped in the radio room trying to contact colleagues in Dili.

They were hacked to death with machetes by militiamen who then poured gasoline over them and burned their bodies.

Mr Redmond said many of those who survived were hidden by local staff in their homes around Atambua. They were then driven through the town to meet the evacuation helicopters.

Responsibility

Indonesia said the killings resulted from the "uncontrollable emotional distress" of people over the death of Olivia Mendosa Moruk, an anti-independence leader.

Pro-Jakarta militiamen
The militias use home-made weapons to deadly effect
The security forces searched for the perpetrators of the murders but said arrests were unlikely.

"How can we arrest 2,000 armed militiamen? Does the country have to bear the responsibility?" an army sergeant in Atambua told journalists.

At no time did the military intervene to prevent the attack, according to UN officials.

More than 600 people died and more than 200,000 fled into West Timor following the 1999 referendum, when the militias rampaged through East Timor, with the alleged connivance of Indonesian officers.

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See also:

07 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aid worker's final words of warning
06 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Danger of the Timor mission
25 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aid for West Timor suspended
01 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Anger over Timor suspects list
01 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Timor inquiry: The list of suspects
30 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor marks year of freedom
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