UN BRINGS ITS OWN GUN LAW TO TIMOR; INTO ACTION: Militiamen Arrested as Troops Launch Rescue Missions

By Antonowicz, Anton | Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), September 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

UN BRINGS ITS OWN GUN LAW TO TIMOR; INTO ACTION: Militiamen Arrested as Troops Launch Rescue Missions


Antonowicz, Anton, Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)


UNITED NATIONS troops launched a special operation to rescue missing journalists in East Timor yesterday.

But even as two were found hiding from militiamen in woodland, the mutilated body of a man believed to be a journalist with a British newspaper was discovered.

The man, found face down in an alleyway clutching a notebook, was believed to be Sanders Thoenes, 30, a Financial Times correspondent.

Thoenes, of British and Dutch parentage, arrived only yesterday from Jakarta.

He was still on the missing list early today amid unconfirmed reports that the man locals heard being dragged into the alley in a suburb of Dili, just after midnight, was the journalist. Neighbours heard shooting at the time.

In the dead man's notebook was the name "Chips" - a reference to US photographer Chip Hires.

He was found alive earlier in the day with veteran British journalist Jon Swain after they had fled from a militia ambush and kidnap attempt and hidden out in the forest.

A special operation was mounted to find and rescue them.

Yesterday, the mainly Australian UN force soldiers were taking no chances as they rounded up militiamen responsible for atrocities.

They carried out their peace-keeping looking down their gun barrels.

One group of militiamen was arrested at a checkpoint outside the airport in Dili, with a pistol, machete and home-made weapons in their car.

The danger in East Timor had been underlined after Swain's car was attacked near Dili.

He has braved trouble spots around the world and a character based on Swain appeared in the film The Killing Fields, about Cambodian genocide.

Richard Caseby, Swain's managing editor at the Sunday Times, said: "They were stopped by the militia. There was a serious attack on the driver."

It is thought his driver had his eye gouged out and a translator travelling with the journalists was taken away by the militia.

Swain, 51, had only arrived in East Timor yesterday and was on his way to the town of Bacau, 80 miles east of Dili.

Meanwhile, a platoon of the 250-strong British Army Gurkhas unit were ordered to secure and guard the UN mission compound in Dili.

It was besieged when the pro-Indonesian militia were running amok in the streets, and some of the worst carnage happened just outside its walls as 1000 terrified refugees huddled inside. …

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