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* See PMW item 2219.

SYDNEY, Australia (July 12, 1999 - Pacific Media Watch/AFP/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Britain's crack SAS army regiment was involved in a 1996 mission to rescue hostages from rebels in Indonesia's Irian Jaya (West Papua) province during which eight civilians died, an Australian television report claimed Monday.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) Four Corners program also alleged the Special Air Services (SAS) worked with mercenaries in planning the operation, and used a helicopter with International Red Cross markings.

Some of the mercenaries came from Executive Outcomes, a South African company involved a year later in the so-called Sandline scandal which ended with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan leaving office.

A helicopter with International Red Cross markings was claimed in the ABC report to have been used by soldiers who shot the villagers in the southern highlands of Irian Jaya in May 1996.

The report said the truth about the mission had been concealed and the Indonesian military was credited with a rescue that triggered a crackdown in which many Irianese were massacred, raped, tortured or dispossessed.

The report does not allege the SAS directly took part in the mission, to rescue a team of European biologists and Indonesian researchers, but claims SAS personnel were implicated at least as advisors and planners.

Four Britons, a German, a Dutchman and his pregnant wife, and four Indonesians had been held for four months while the International Red Cross negotiated for their release.

Free Papua Movement (OPM) guerrillas had captured the team to draw international attention to their battle against Indonesia for independence in the western half of New Guinea.

Indonesia was accused in Monday's report of bombing and strafing villages whose loyalties were regarded as suspect during a campaign that brought famine to the region.

One villager told the ABC that between 1,000 people and 5,000 people were killed in the years leading up to the capture of the hostages.

"Others fled into the forest never to return, not even to visit any government controlled area again," he said.

Officially, eight OPM soldiers were killed by Indonesian Kopassus special forces in a battle that reached its climax after two of the Indonesian captives had been killed by the OPM.

But Daniel Start, leader of the British team, was quoted as saying the Indonesians were not killed by their OPM captors, but by grieving civilian friends and relatives of innocent people "murdered days before under extraordinary circumstances."

Start said those murdered had been lured to their deaths by a Red Cross flag and gunned down by four or five white people and Indonesians behind them. Eight were killed and many more were wounded.

The International Red Cross denied it had authorized the use of the helicopter with Red Cross markings, but had failed to make any further inquiries, the report said.

OPM leader Kelly Kwalik said the International Red Cross had been "used" by the Indonesians and the military involved in the rescue mission.

Britain appointed military attaché Ivor Helberg, a former SAS colonel, to provide specialized assistance and advice to Kopassus commander Major-General Prabowo.

Helberg admitted Britain had also provided sophisticated surveillance equipment to help in the operation, but denied the SAS or any British troops were involved in the rescue mission.

Executive Outcomes' now retired chief executive officer, Nick Van Den Bergh, said he led a team of five mercenaries in Irian Jaya during the hostage crisis, providing advice and training for a helicopter assault, but denied he or his men took part in it.

Van Den Berg also said he could name two of the SAS team who were in the area.

Provided by: Ottis Simopiaref PO Box 545 6700 AM Wageningen The Netherlands Ph.: +31.6.51700331 Email:

Title -- 2220 WEST PAPUA: Britain's SAS 'implicated in Indonesian massacre' Date -- 13 July 1999 Byline -- Press release Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Agence France-Presse, Joyo via Tapol, 12/7/99 Copyright – AFP Status -- Unabridged

FOUR CORNERS ABC TV Sydney, Australia

PRESS RELEASE July 13, 1999


Last night's ABC Four Corners report on the 1996 hostage crisis in Irian Jaya (West Papua) makes serious allegations against the Red Cross (ICRC) and British military personal. The program claims the ICRC and British soldiers, along with the Indonesian military, ABRI, were involved in the murder of innocent villagers.

The program also accused ABRI of continuing acts of terrorism and intimidation in the area where the hostages were taken, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

"We have always known what really went on during and after the hostage crisis, said Australia West Papua Association member Rex Rumakiek. Four Corners confirmed this, and even presented proof that ABRI used a white helicopter bearing the Red Cross to lure innocent villagers, from the jungle and then shot them down."

According to the program, British SAS troops as well as Sandline mercenaries were involved with ABRI in the actions to free the hostages. This was confirmed by the British commander. The program claimed that two British soldiers were in the "Red Cross" helicopter, and fired on the villagers.

The Australia West Papua Association is demanding answers from the ICRC and the British and Indonesian governments. AWPA is also calling on the Australian government and Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesperson Laurie Brereton to demand that Irian Jaya be opened to international scrutiny.

"The murder, rape and torture of innocent West Papuan villagers will not end until the international media and the United Nations is permitted into West Papua," said Kel Dummett from AWPA.

For additional information, contact: Rex Rumakiek +61.2. 9514 3444 Kel Dummett +61.2. 9665 6059

Provided by: Title -- 2219 WEST PAPUA: Four Corners report makes Red Cross claim Date -- 13 July 1999 Byline -- Press release Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Ottis Simopiaref,, 13/7/99 Status – Unabridged

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