288 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 23 October 1975, 8.20 a.m.

O.JA2594 UNCLASSIFIED IMMEDIATE

Portuguese Timor: Missing Journalists

Ref O.JA2498, O.JA24971

The following item datelined Atambua of 23 October appeared in Antara this morning: Francisco Lopez da Cruz, chairman of the UDT Party, said yesterday that he had accepted an Indonesian request for the search for Australian television newsmen who were reported missing in Portuguese Timor.

Quoting reports from the commandant of the UDT troops which joined in the attacks to capture Balibo town on 16 October da Cruz explained that the joint troops ofUDT, APODETI, KOTA and TRABALISTA had encountered strong resistance by FRETILIN troops from a house located on the way toward the bastion of the FRETILIN forces.

After defeating the FRETILIN troops and capturing the whole town of Balibo they then found a number of corpses in the house.

Meanwhile, Thomas Gon alves, who commanded APODETI troops in the attacks, reported that the house turned out to have been the basis of defence of FRETILIN troops.

He said that the house could be captured only when it had been seriously damaged. At least fifteen people were killed inside the house which caught fire during the attacks.

He pointed out that the corpses had been burnt so badly that it was quite difficult to make identifications. He believed, however, that several of them were white men who assisted FRETILIN troops.

Gon alves explained that words 'AUSTRALIA' were found scribbled on the inside walls of the damaged building and the Australian flag was painted randomly on the walls.

He added, however, that he and his troops gave no attention to the scribblings since they still encountered strong resistance from the remaining FRETILIN members.1

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/5, i]