East Timor's Bishop Carlos Belo has claimed anti-independence militiamen backed by the Indonesian army shot or hacked at least 25 people to death. He condemned the violence in an emotional news conference held after inspecting a bloodied churchyard where Tuesday's killings took place.
    "This is a massacre," he said.
    Citing witness accounts, he feared the toll may rise in the town of Liquica, 18 miles west of East Timor's capital, Dili.cBelo called for calm and demanded Indonesian President B.J. Habibie investigate Tuesday's violence, the latest between bitterly divided armed groups either for or against independence from Indonesia, which annexed East Timor in 1976.
    The bishop, who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, also demanded the international community help prevent more violence in the half-island territory.
    Many of the dead were civilians who had taken shelter in the church and an adjacent priest's home after days of communal violence. The bishop said the death toll had been confirmed in a letter from East Timor's military commander, Col. Tono Suratman, who accompanied him with journalists to Liquica under heavy armed guard on Wednesday.
    Rafael dos Santos, Liquica's parish priest, said hundreds of armed militia gang members fired at 2,000 terrified villagers cowering in his house and the church. Hundreds had fled when security personnel fired tear gas.
    "When they ran outside they were chopped down by the militias with swords," dos Santos said. Dozens of Indonesian police officers fired into the air or simply watched the carnage, he said.

8/04/99 10:21:26 / AP


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