Australian files reveal deadly clashes during UN Timor operation
Updated: 2005-11-14 08:55
Australian soldiers shot and killed at least 14 pro-Jakarta militia and
exchanged fire with Indonesian forces during UN peacekeeping operations in East
Timor in 1999 and 2000, according to government documents.
The defense ministry reports obtained by The Australian newspaper under
Freedom of Information laws were the first confirmation of the extent of
casualties during Australia's deployment in East Timor, which began a month
after the territory voted for independence from Indonesia in August 1999.
According to the documents as reported in The Australian, Australian soldiers
were involved in 33 "engagements" with pro-Indonesian militia armed with
automatic weapons and grenades.
The first incident occured barely two weeks after the 7,000-strong UN force
(Interfet) deployed in East Timor, when several trucks carrying militia crashed
through a UN roadblock near the West Timor border.
"Shots fired by Interfet, six militia casualties, 116 militia detained," the
official report read, adding that the UN soldiers involved were members of
Australia's elite Special Air Service (SAS) regiment.
An Interfet truck escorting militia detained in the first incident was then
ambushed and in the ensuing firefight, two UN troops were wounded and two
militia killed, it said.
In all, the report says at least 14 militia were killed in clashes with the
UN soldiers within weeks of the peacekeepers' deployment.
"The high death toll among the pro-Jakarta forces early in the cross-border
probes against the superior firepower and quality of Australian soldiers also
appears to have dramatically reduced the militia's appetite for battle within
weeks of the deployment," The Australian said.
The newspaper said analysis of the 33 engagements revealed in the documents
showed that UN forces never initiated firefights with militia, instead only
reacting to fire or incursions across the border.
The documents also confirmed that Australian troops clashed with Indonesian
soldiers and police in October 1999, when the Indonesians fired on an Australian
platoon over an incident caused by Australian confusion about the border
demarcation between East and West Timor, it said.
One Indonesian policeman died in the incident.
No Australian soldiers died fighting in East Timor, although several were
wounded during their 15-month deployment.
Australia contributed 5,000 of the 7,000 soldiers in Interfet, which was
tasked with preventing violence by pro-Indonesian forces in the run-up to East
Timor's independence in 2002.