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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 04:51 GMT 05:51 UK


Journalist killed in East Timor

Australian troops investigated the death

A Dutch journalist working for a British newspaper has been killed in East Timor.

East Timor
Sander Thoenes, 30, Jakarta correspondent for the Financial Times, was killed by suspected anti-independence militiamen as the United Nations intervention force continued its efforts to secure the territory.

His badly mutilated body was found by UN peacekeepers dumped in the back garden of a house.

Pro-Jakarta militia had promised to kill Westerners, whom they accuse of helping the cause of independence.

Witnesses said men wearing Indonesian police uniforms had shot at Mr Thoenes.

Motorcycle rider Florindo Araujo said he had been taking Mr Thoenes to the Becora suburb of Dili.

He said they saw a roadblock manned by at least six armed men, dressed in grey Indonesian police uniforms.

The motorcycle rider and the journalist did not stop, but turned around.

Men from the roadblock chased them in cars, and fired at the wheel of the motorbike.

"My motorcycle fell on the ground and dragged both of us for about 100m.

"The journalist fell on the asphalt," Mr Araujo said. "They continued shooting and I ran off to the jungle."

Mr Araujo said he last saw Mr Thoenes, who also worked for the Dutch news magazine Vrij Nederland, lying on the road.

[ image: Jon Swain: Veteran war reporter]
Jon Swain: Veteran war reporter
William Dawkins, Financial Times foreign editor, said the alarm had been raised after Mr Thoenes failed to keep an appointment in his hotel.

Richard Lambert, editor of the newspaper, said Mr Thoenes was a friend and a professional "devoted to getting to the truth".

He said in a statement: "Sander was one of the FT's finest foreign correspondents and a wonderful friend and colleague.

"He was full of enthusiasm and showed great initiative and flair in everything he did."

The journalist is thought to be the first foreigner killed since the peacekeeping force arrived in East Timor on Monday.

The International Federation of Journalists condemned the killing and called for greater UN protection for journalists reporting from the island.


Two other foreign journalists had a narrow escape when their car was ambushed, forcing them to hide until they could be rescued by Australian troops.

The Australia military says it will not fly any more journalists into East Timor, because there are insufficient resources to support them when they arrive.

A British journalist who went missing after being attacked by militiamen in East Timor was rescued by peacekeeping troops.

Veteran Sunday Times foreign correspondent Jon Swain was found safely by Australian forces along with his colleague, American photographer Chip Hires.

Mr Swain, 51, and Mr Hires were attacked in an ambush on their car by an armed gang three miles outside Dili.

They escaped and were found hiding in woodland after a rescue operation involving ground troops and helicopters with heat-seeking equipment.

However, the driver of the car was understood to have been seriously injured and a translator working for the journalists was abducted.

Brigadier David Richards, commander of the British Forces in East Timor, told the BBC that although Dili was now reasonably secure, outside the capital "it is still a very dangerous and volatile place".

Hundreds of reporters from around the world have descended on East Timor to cover the peacekeepers' mission to halt the rampage by pro-Jakarta militias who oppose the territory's recent vote for independence from Indonesia.

British soldiers were among the first to enter Dili on Monday.

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