Ghost Of Balibo: Indonesian Covert War In Timor

July 3rd, 2005  

Topic: Ghost Of Balibo: Indonesian Covert War In Timor

ET: The 5 ghosts of Balibo rise once more to haunt Indonesia & us
Sydney Morning Herald, October 14 1995 David Jenkins, asia editor

It will be 20 years on Monday since 5 Australian-based TV
jouranalists were killed during an Indonesian army attack on
Balibo, East Timor. It was an accident, the authorities saud.
But as David Jenkins reports, they now confirm that they knew
the journalists were there and had been monitoring their

Alarmed by the success of the left-wing Fretilin independence
movement, which had defeated its conservative UDT rivals in a
brief but bloody civil war, Indonesia decided that it was time to

It trained a volunteer army of pro-integration Timorese. It
launched clandestine commando raids inside Timorese territory,
deliberately fuelling the instability that it would later cite as
an excuse for a full-scale invasion. And then it went in boots
and all.

As is usual in such circumstances, Jakarta turned first to the
elite paracommando unit Kopassandha (Secret Warfare Force) later
renamed Kopassus.

On Tuesday, Oct 7 (1975), about 100 Kopassandha troops commanded
by Colonel Dading Kalbuadi captured the coastal town of Batugade,
2 km inside Portugese Timor, forcing Fretilin defenders to pull
back to Balibo, 10km further east.

Dading, who became the first Indonesian commander in East Timor
after the invasion and who retired as a lieutenant-general in
1987, established a forward headquarters in an old Portugese fort.
One of his assistants, the late Col Agus Hernoto, set up a radio
unit to monitor Fretilin radio traffic.

On the same day Indonesia sent additional troops and Soviet-made
PT-76 amphibious tanks across the border to reinforce Batugade.
Fretilin believed, and Col Dading encouraged this - that the
Indonesians would advance up the mountain road to Balibo. Knowing
it could not hope to hold Balibo, which was within range of
Indonesia's heavy naval guns, Fretilin kept a token force of 60
men there. There task was to ambush any Indonesian column coming
up the exposed mountain road.

The East Timor border area was an increasingly dangerous place in
October 1975. Indonesian scouting parties were making regular
forays into Portugese territory and they were not in any mood to
have their cover blown. According to a detailed National Times
article by Hamish McDonald the troops who eventually attacked
Balibo were under explicit orders 'to kill all witnesses to their
covert intrusion into foreign territory.'

The Indonesians set up a Joint Task Force Command under Col Dading
and had begun to mass about 3500 regular troops on their side of
the border to seize 6 East Timorese towns. The attack came, with
guile and ferocity, before dawn on October 16th.

At 3am Col Dading ordered the Marine Corps tank crews to start
their engines and begin moving about the Batugade area. The
Soviet-made PT-76 is a growling, screeching vehicle and to the
Fretilin soldiers on the Balibo road it would have looked as if
the offensive was about to begin. This was a ruse.

'I made an operational plan to decieve', Col Dading said
yesterday, 'I had no intention of advancing up the main road. I
would have been crazy to do that. I attacked from behind. They
were very surprised. When I took Balibo, we found that all the
machine guns were pointed towards the main roads. They were not
professional soldiers, like me. I am a professional. They just
tried to ambush us.'
As Fretilin soldiers waited in their ambush positions on the
western approaches to Balibo, more than 100 Kopassandha troops
swept into Balibo from the south and east, laying down a deadly
barrage of fire. There was virtually no resistance. Kopassandha
suffered only one casualty, a soldier who was lightly injured.

The attack was lead by Captain Yunus Yosfiah, a 30 year old
Buginese special forces officer, who is now a major-general.
General Yunus is married to a Timorese woman and commanded the
Infantry Training Centre in Bandung in the early 1990s. He was in
Australia recently for the Kangaroo 95 military exercises. He was
described yesterday by a senior Australian military officer as 'a
fine officer'.

Dading, who had arrived by helicopter from Batugade as the
fighting drew to a close, emphatically rejects the claim that any
journalists were killed in cold blood. 'That's not right', he
said, 'I know about that .. After we took over Balibo we checked
and found there were some bodies that were burned in the house.
But you know we did not do anything like that. No, it's not true.
We were in combat. We didn't know form where the white men came.
After the attack we just knew some white men were killed in
action. It could happen anywhere. It's the risk of the journalist
in combat.'

read the full version at
September 6th, 2005  
What get's me about this is, that the Australian Government at the time (I beleive it was the Whitlam Gov't) did basically stuff all to help them.

5 Australian's killed by troops of a foreign nation, during an illigeal operation, and the Gov't of the day say's "So what, we don't care."

I guess it's kind of like Gough not returning from his holidays after Cyclone Tracey. Might have inconvieninced him slightly, seeing all these injured people in his own country. He might have to do something about it.
September 13th, 2005  
and NZ did sweet FA as well.

pretty shameful episode IMO.