East Timor: ICRC assessing situation in Alas area
26-11-1998 News Release 98/40
Geneva (ICRC) - Concerned about widespread allegations in recent days of massacres near the town of Alas on the south side of East Timor, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) dispatched a delegate from its office in Dili on 22 November to gather information about the situation in Alas and surrounding villages.
The delegate was able to confirm that four persons had been killed in separate incidents. These occurred in the course of military operations following an attack on an Indonesian military post in Alas on 9 November, in which three soldiers of the Indonesian army and a civilian were killed, and thirteen soldiers taken prisoner (11 of whom were subsequently released). However, he was unable to confirm that massacres had been committed. The ICRC has so far been able to visit 13 persons detained in connection with those incidents in police stations in Same and Dili.
Following the attack, an ICRC delegate had visited Alas from 16 to 20 November. He was able to speak freely with the inhabitants and had unimpeded access to all areas.
As part of the ICRC's usual activities in East Timor, the delegate assessed local needs for humanitarian aid. At the same time, the ICRC office in Dili contacted the Indonesian military commander there to offer its services regarding the captured soldiers and express its concern about the possibility of a further deterioration in the situation. The ICRC's regional delegation in Jakarta made a similar approach to the authorities in the Indonesian capital.
At the time of the initial visit to Alas, the situation there was very tense and many civilians were sheltering in a school as the Indonesian army carried out an operation nearby. The delegate observed that houses and personal property had been destroyed.
On the second visit to Alas, the delegate noted that tension had eased but many people were still sheltering in neighbouring villages or sleeping in churches. They were being assisted by local authorities and church organizations. Though some material and medical problems remain to be solved at the school, where the ICRC found 143 persons, no life-threatening situation was observed.
The ICRC will continue to assess and endeavour to meet the need for humanitarian aid and will carry on its visits to persons arrested in connection with the situation in East Timor.