Pattern of violence

The murders of Belo and Branco and the two incidents described below suggest that Battalion 745 sought to kill off the victors of the referendum. The unit's role in these brutal acts undermines the contention of Indonesia's generals that militia groups alone perpetrated such violence.

'There were six members of Battalion 745 and four members of the Team Alpha militia," Teodosio Alves says, extracting his wallet from a back pocket and fishing out a slip of paper on which he has written the names of the seven men in the group whom he recognized. "The 745 men were fully uniformed and had their guns."

The day was Sept. 9. The men were looking for Mr. Alves's brother Ambrosio, a prominent activist for East Timorese independence.

Alves agreed with his brother's views, but as a public-works official in East Timor's Indonesian-controlled government, he had had to be more discreet in his politics.

The men arrived near Ambrosio's house just as he was going out to buy cigarettes. Alves and others were standing around on the road and watched as Ambrosio's assailants grabbed him roughly and struck him several times. Some of the men twisted his right arm so severely that it appeared to break.

The soldiers and militia members shoved him into the back of their truck and prepared to leave. "Jump," Alves shouted to Ambrosio. But the soldiers pointed their weapons toward the bystanders and fired warning shots into the air. The truck left in the direction of the 745 compound, a 10-minute drive away.

Joaquim Fonseca, an East Timorese human rights worker who has researched disappearances in the Los Palos area, says 745 soldiers and Team Alpha members similarly abducted two other men in Asalaino on Sept. 8. One of these two men has disappeared.

Sometime in late October or early November, a cowherd found the other man. He was alongside Ambrosio, in a shallow grave inside the rear boundary of the 745 compound.

The family recognized Ambrosio by his long-sleeved striped shirt and cut-off jeans. The shirt was stained with blood and punctured in several places.


On Sept. 10, Battalion 745 soldiers came in droves to the village of Home Baru, a 30-minute walk through fields and jungle from their compound.

"The soldiers came from three sides," says Joangino Viana, a tall young man with a narrow, angular face, and dark, sunken eyes. "There were so many we couldn't count them."

They were looking for his brothers-in-law, Florentino and Florencio Branco. For years the men had provided underground assistance to Falintil guerrillas and otherwise backed the cause of independence.

The soldiers grabbed the two men, stripped them down to their underwear, and beat them with rifle butts in front of the villagers.

"First some of the soldiers took Florencio away, toward the compound. Then they forced Florentino to find some gasoline and when he came back they took the gas and burned the houses here," Mr. Viana says, pointing out the charred remains of the brothers' homes.

Around noon, three hours after they had arrived, the troops left with Florentino. The family has never seen him or his brother again. But Viana is certain that he knows where they are. "We believe their bodies are the ones in the well on the compound."

Three days after an Australian-led international force arrived in Los Palos on Oct. 17, a military policeman investigated the contents of a reeking well behind a set of barracks buildings. "He pulled up a femur [bone]," says Lt. Col. Lance Ensor, the senior Australian officer in the region.

Amelia Fernandes, the mother of the two men, says that a 745 soldier who knew the family came to see her after Florentino and Florencio were taken away. "He said, 'Your sons have been killed by 745.' "

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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