Indonesia: One foreign journalist killed, two others attacked

Click here to read CPJ’s September 22 protest letter to President Habibie of Indonesia.

September 22, 1999 — One foreign journalist was found dead this morning near Dili, while two others were rescued last night by Australian peacekeeping troops after their car was attacked yesterday.

The body of Sander Thoenes, 30, a Dutch freelance reporter on assignment for The Financial Times, The Christian Science Monitor,and the Dutch newspaper Vrij Nederland,was found by U.N. forces in the Dili suburb of Becora, where the Indonesian military and anti-independence militia have been active, according to Western news reports.

Thoenes was shot dead at dusk on Tuesday after his hired motorcycle taxi attempted to run a roadblock manned by armed militiamen in Becora. Thoenes’ Timorese driver, Florindo da Conceicao Araujo, later told Western reporters that he was killed by six gunmen wearing Indonesian military uniforms.

Thoenes and Araujo passed the roadblock without stopping. An undetermined number of gunmen followed them in a car. The gunmen fired warning shots. When the motorcycle did not stop, they fired at its rear wheel, causing the motorcycle to crash.

According to Araujo the gunmen appeared to be preparing to fire again, so he fled. He last saw Thoenes lying in the middle of the street.

Australian peacekeepers recovered his mutilated body on Wednesday morning. Araujo told reporters that the gunmen could have been pro-Jakarta militia members wearing uniforms discarded by retreating Indonesian forces.

Two other foreign journalists were rescued near Dili last night after escaping an attack by militia gunmen. British journalist Jon Swain and American photographer Chip Hires had been hiding in the hills near Dili after their car was attacked yesterday morning. They were rescued by Australian troops, according to East Timor British forces commander Brigadier David Richards, who was quoted by the BBC.

Swain, an award-winning correspondent for The Sunday Timesof London, and Hires, a photographer with the Paris-based Gamma agency, were traveling with a Timorese driver and a Timorese translator when gunmen ambushed their car in the eastern town of Baucau.

The militiamen pulled the two Timorese from the car and attacked them, according to Richard Caseby of The Sunday Times.Their fate is still unknown. Swain and Hires fled from the car into nearby bushes, where they hid until troops arrived.

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