Incident Summary:

05/10/1999: In one of two linked incidents, eight-hundred members of the Besi Merah Putih Militia, who came from the neighboring Liquisa District, attacked pro-Independence East Timorese civilians in Santa Cruz, East Timor, Indonesia. The group came when the local Aitarak militia pro-Indonesian militia called for help against pro-Independence forces. The Besi Merah Putih attackers shot a man in the chest and split his head open with a cutlass.




Southeast Asia

region/u.s. state:


Santa Cruz

Attack Information
Type of Attack (more) Armed Assault
Successful Attack? (more) Yes
Target Information (more)
Target Type: Private Citizens & Property
Name of Entity Civilians
Specific Description East Timorese pro-Independence supporters
Nationality of Target Indonesia
Additional Information
Hostages No
Ransom No
Property Damage Unknown
Extent of Property Damage Unknown
Value of Property Damage Unknown
Weapon Information
Type Sub-type
Firearms Unknown Gun Type
Melee Knife or Other Sharp Object
Weapon Details
The victim had been shot and suffered head wounds inflicted by either a machete or a cutlass.
Additional Information
Suicide Attack?No
Part of Multiple Incident?Yes
Criterion 1 (more) Yes
Criterion 2 (more) Yes
Criterion 3 (more) Yes
Doubt Terrorism Proper (more) Yes
Alternate Designation (more) Insurgency/Guerilla Action
Additional Information Reports indicate that many more people died and were injured in this conflict, but there is no data to support these anecdotal claims. The melee that broke out spread to other areas such as Audian where another pro-Independence civilian was murdered. This was one of two related attacks (cf. 199905100001-2). The possibility and degree of state involvement with these types of pro-Indonesia/anti-independence incidents is unknown. The pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor during this time were independent with the tacit support of the government.  While the Indonesian government did not necessarily train or regularly supply these militias, they did not intercede in any of their operations. 
Perpetrator Group Information
Group Name Claimed Responsibility
Aitarak Militia No
Besi Merah Putih Militia No
Perpetrator Statistics
Number of Perpetrators 800
Number of Captured Perpetrators 0
Casualty Information
Total Number of Casualties 1 Fatalities
Total Number of Fatalities 1
Number of U.S. Fatalities 0
Number of Perpetrator Fatalities 0
Total Number of Injured Unknown
Number of U.S. Injured 0
Number of Perpetrators Injured Unknown
"At Least Two Killed in Militia Attacks in Dili," Agence France Presse, May 10, 1999.