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Mahidi militia

Cancio Lopes de Carvalho

Commander of Mahidi militia, Ainaro and Covalima

Cancio's name became notorious throughout East Timor in 1999. He was one of the small handful who allegedly met with the military area commander MajGen Adam Damiri on 10 or 12 August 1998 to mark the launching of the militia movement.[1]

In December 1998, acting under instructions from the Kopassus intelligence unit SGI, he revived a pro-integration youth group he had led in the early 1990s and renamed it Mahidi (Mati Hidup Demi Integrasi, Dead or Alive for Integration). It was officially inaugurated at a ceremony attended by the Ainaro military and police chiefs on 1 January 1999. Many young men were press-ganged into joining up. Helping him as ‘intelligence officer’ was his older brother Nemecio Lopes de Carvalho (his name is also written Remecio or Remesio).[2]

Ainaro was the base for TNI Sector B, a combat sector dominated by Kopassus. The sector was commanded in 1999 by LtCol Tatang Zaenuddin. His deputy LtCol Nus Rahasia allegedly trained the Mahidi militia.[3]

The Mahidi militia was created following increasingly militant pro-independence sentiment in Ainaro in late 1998, in which some houses had been burnt. By the following April it had 1,000-2,000 members, and about 500 firearms. Cancio told BBC radio that he received automatic weapons from the Ainaro district military command on 30 December 1998.[4] That command (Kodim 1633) was led by LtCol Paulus Gatot Rudianto.[5]

Based at Cancio's home in the village of Cassa, in the southern part of the sub-district of Ainaro township, branches were set up in every village of the wider Ainaro district. A second Mahidi base was established in Manutasi, near Ainaro, headed by Daniel Pereira. It also expanded into neighbouring Covalima district (see Vasco da Cruz). The organisation was disciplined and always coordinated closely with SGI. On all its operations, Mahidi was assisted by military personnel - prominent among them Sgt Domingos Sarmento and Sgt Cesario Tilman (the latter doubled up as village head), both from the subdistrict military command (Koramil) at Hato-Udo.[6]

Cancio was known for his swagger - he wore a cowboy hat, and a dagger and revolver on his hips.[7]

Mahidi's first operation was in the village of Raimea, Zumalai sub-district, near Ainaro, on 26 December 1998 - the gang arrested and tortured some village youths. On 2 January he stopped all traffic passing through Cassa village, and arrested eight passengers. One of these later gave a detailed account of his experience of torture at their hands. Cancio was personally implicated in this incident through the use of his vehicle.[8]

On 3 January 1999 Mahidi (allegedly with some SGI personnel) shot dead two youths at a Mahidi checkpoint in the sub-district of Manutasi, and seriously injured five others. The shots were fired, on Cancio’s orders, against people protesting the establishment of the checkpoint.

On 24 January they attacked Mape village in Zumalai sub-district, killing one person. On 25 January they attacked Galitas hamlet in the same sub-district, and killed three and injured five named individuals. One of them was a pregnant woman named Angelina de Araujo (24). The Mahidi men reportedly sliced open her corpse and took out the foetus. This latter incident became emblematic of Cancio's callousness - it was talked about all over East Timor. Yet Cancio, who had taken part in the murders, spoke about this incident on the BBC as if he was proud of it.[9] He was later charged with crimes against humanity over these incidents (see below).

On 19 February Cancio was put up in a luxurious hotel in Jakarta in order to take part with other militia leaders in a meeting with Indonesian armed forces commander General Wiranto in Jakarta. Wiranto said they had come to ask for weapons (see LtGen Sugiono). Cancio claimed to have met President Habibie at this time.[10]

On 25 February 1999 Cancio and Eurico Guterres signed a letter threatening Australian journalists with death during Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's visit to Indonesia.[11]

Between 11 and 13 April Mahidi militiamen led by Cancio and by Vasco da Cruz repeatedly abused and attacked a group of university students doing community service in the hamlet of Dais and the village of Beco 1, Suai subdistrict. As a result of these attacks, one student died and was buried by Mahidi members, and two others disappeared. Cancio told a newspaper he 'took responsibility' for the incident, because the students were collecting money for CNRT.[12]

A private Indonesian television (SCTV) news broadcast showed that, firing a M-16 rifle, he personally took part in an assault on 17 April on the Dili home of former provincial parliamentarian Manuel Carrascalao. At least a dozen died. Other militia leaders who took part were Eurico Guterres and Manuel de Sousa.[13]

Also in April 1999 he was appointed Sector III Commander of the united militia forces PPI, an umbrella for the various local militias. (The PPI sectors did not correspond to the military combat sectors). This nominally placed him in charge of the Mahidi, Laksaur, Ablai and Ahi militias. Joao Tavares was in overall charge of PPI.[14]

On 10 June Cancio's militia conducted an alternative 'voter registration' exercise in the villages of Beikala and Leolima, in the sub-district of Hatu-Udo, Ainaro district, telling voters they had to vote for autonomy and were forbidden from registering with Unamet.[15]

Cancio worked for the military but he also lived in fear of them. In June 1999 it was reported that two of his men were shot dead by Indonesian soldiers for unclear reasons - either because they were accused of 'two-facedness' or in order to stimulate their colleagues' emotions by sowing the idea that they were killed by Falintil.[16]

His main job remained to intimidate the voters. On 18 August he told a rally in his own village of Cassa, Ainaro sub-district, that the 'wrong choice' in the ballot would lead to war and that those who chose wrongly would suffer the consequences.[17]

Just before the ballot on 30 August 1999 he allegedly distributed a list of at least 100 known pro-independence leaders to his militiamen and gave instructions to kill them.[18]

  • Anigio de Oliveira, a Mahidi militia member, was sentenced to 4 years prison by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes of the Dili District Court on 27 March 2001 for abetting the murder of Fernando Gomes in Cassa village on 5 September 1999.[19]
  • Antonio Lemos, a Mahidi group leader responsible for 90 men, was indicted before the Special Panel in Dili on 28 January 2002 for murdering Benjamin de Araujo during the Suai church massacre of 6 September 1999. The prosecution later sought leave to upgrade the charge to crimes against humanity.[20]

As the Indonesian pull-out from East Timor became imminent in September 1999, Cancio withdrew to his home base at Cassa, where a reign of terror ensued. On 5 September his subordinates, acting on Cancio’s orders to kill any who refused to go to Indonesian West Timor, murdered Fernando Gomes in Cassa. On 12 September Cancio interrogated an alleged independence supporter, then handed him to a TNI member and his brother Remecio, who killed him outside Cassa.

Interfet soldiers later found the body of a man who had been tied to a chair and executed in front of Carvalho's office when they entered the area in early October.[21]

Mahidi committed their worst atrocity on 23 September in the village of Maununu, a remote mountain village 20km north of Cassa that had refused to evacuate to West Timor. Having left Ainaro for West Timor with TNI two days earlier, a force of up 60 Mahidi militiamen led by Cancio’s brother Nemecio Carvalho came back and attacked the village early in the morning, leaving eleven dead. Another five murders were also attempted. The survivors were then forcibly moved to West Timor, their houses burned and livestock killed.[22]

After leaving East Timor, PPI was reorganised and Cancio became southern sector commander, based in West Timor. In January 2000 he threatened to 'burn down' Kupang city with his militiamen if Indonesia forced the East Timorese refugees to return to East Timor.[23]

As late as October 2000 he told a seminar in Kupang that his militia forces were intact and he had sent some of his men into East Timor to conduct guerrilla activities.[24]

At the same time (October 2000) Cancio and three other militia leaders (his brother Nemecio, Domingos Pereira, and Joanico Cesario Belo) put out feelers in a letter to the UN Secretary General, offering to reveal all about his Kopassus backers in exchange for an amnesty upon return to East Timor. However, a deal Cancio Lopes de Carvalho was about to make fell through when Untaet Chief of Staff Parameswaran resigned in January 2002.[25]

On 28 February 2003 Cancio Lopes de Carvalho was indicted for crimes against humanity before the Dili special panel. A total of 22 Mahidi militia members were indicted in absentia at this time, including two of Cancio’s subordinates, Nemecio [Remecio/ Remesio] Lopes de Carvalho (his brother) and Orlando Baptista. The indictment was for the Maununu massacre of 23 September and the subsequent deportation of survivors to West Timor, as well as for the other murders in April and September described above. Mahidi company commander Vasco da Cruz was among those indicted at this time.[26]


In his late thirties in 1999, Cancio de Carvalho is the fourth of ten children to Mateus and Margarida Lopes de Carvalho. Mateus was the chieftain (liurai) of the village of Cassa, near Ainaro. As a child Cancio was forced to help Indonesian soldiers during military operations (TBO - Tenaga Bantuan Operasi). After junior high school in Ainaro he went to live with the family of an Indonesian soldier in Surabaya, where he did his senior high school. He also lived in Jakarta for a time, with the family of Arnaldo dos Reis Araujo, a former governor of East Timor under Indonesia. But they disliked his womanising and he returned to East Timor, where he began work at the Dili office of the Justice Department. In 1994 he was confirmed as civil servant, and in May 1998 he moved to the Kupang office of the same department. He is married to a woman from a Tetun-speaking part of West Timor.[27]

Like his better-educated brother Francisco de Carvalho, he became an informer to the Kopassus organisation SGI following the Dili massacre of November 1991. He was asked to gather the sons of members of the pro-Indonesian political party Apodeti into a youth group based in Cassa (vaguely named 'volunteer corps' - 'pasukan sukarelawan'). The group was then used to intimidate pro-independence activists. Ainaro was the birthplace of Apodeti in 1974. In late 1997 Cancio allegedly raped the pregnant wife of Ainaro local Jose de Fatima, leading her to miscarry.[28]

Extra Information

Implicated in Events:
Carrascalao - 17/04/1999 - Murder of 12 at home of Manuel Carrascalao, Dili

Current Status:
T - Committed for trial in East Timor, some already sentenced.

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
Vasco da Cruz
MajGen Adam Damiri
Eurico Guterres
Sera Malik
Col Mudjiono
LtCol Nus RN Rahasia
LtCol Paulus Gatot Rudianto
BrigGen Mahidin Simbolon
LtGen Sugiono
Col Tono Suratman
Joao Tavares

[1] James Dunn, 'Crimes against humanity in East Timor, January to October 1999: Their nature and causes', Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 2001.

[2] 'Getting away with murder: A chronology of Indonesian military sponsored paramilitary and militia atrocities in East Timor from  November 1998 to May 1999', East Timor International Support Center (Etisc), 15 May 1999.

[3] 'Political overview Atambua-Cova Lima-Ainaro, 15-17 June 1999', United Nations Mission in East Timor (Pol), 18 June 1999 (Unamet document); 'History of Manatuto District 1999', Dili: UN Human Rights Unit, no date.

[4] John Roosa, 'Info on ABRI's paramiliaries in East Timor,, 12 February 1999; 'East Timor: Seize the moment', Amnesty International (ASA 21/49/99), 21 June 1999.

[5] 'The Indonesia's military remain large in East Timor: How can Unamet cope with the situation before and post the ballot?', Tapol, 30 July 1999.

[6] 'Fortilos: Timor Lorosae: Apa yang harus dilakukan?', MateBEAN, 31 August 1999.

[7] Maggie O'Kane, 'Urgent inquiry starts into who inspired atrocities', The Guardian [UK], 18 September 1999.

[8] 'Kesaksian korban kekejaman Mahidi', Fortilos, 22 April 1999.

[9] John Roosa, 'Info on Abri's paramiliaries in East Timor,, 12 February 1999. The dead on 3 January were Reinaldo Orleans (21) and Julio (23). The seriously injured were Celestino da Silva Pereira (19), Hermenegildo Barros (21), Marcos de Andrade (23), and Domingos de Andrade (20). Killed on 24 January was Fernando Cardoso (27). The other two killed on 25 January were Olandino da Silva (45) and Luis Pereira (16).

[10] The Wiranto meeting is described in 'Delegasi prointegrasi Timtim minta senjata pada Pangab', Republika, 20 February 1999. This report did not list him as being present at the Wiranto meeting, but another one does: 'Getting away with murder: A chronology of Indonesian military sponsored paramilitary and militia atrocities in East Timor from  November 1998 to May 1999', East Timor International Support Center (Etisc), 15 May 1999.

[11] 'Timor excerpt from Annual Report "Attacks on the Press in 1999"', Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ,, 22 March 2000. The complete text is in 'Milisi prointegrasi ancam wartawan Australia', MateBEAN, 28 February 1999.

[12] 'HAK: Laporan situasi Ham Timor Timur April 1999 (1)', Yayasan HAK (Hukum, hak Azasi & Keadilan), MateBEAN, 25 May 1999; 'Mahidi bertanggung jawab terhadap penangkapan dua mahasiswa: Prointegrasi tangkap 18 pemuda', Media Indonesia, 19 April 1999. The students were Joao Soares Ximenes (Agriculture), and Bernardino Simao (State Administration) ('HAK: Aksi kekerasan Mahidi dn Laksaur Merah Putih', MateBEAN, 30 April 1999).

[13] 'Milisi pro-integrasi teman siapa? -- Whose friends are the pro-integration militia?', Cari, Charles Coppel mailing list, 13 October 2000.

[14] 'Prointegrasi pamer kekuatan, Timtim tegang', Jawa Pos, 18 April 1999.

[15] Komite untuk Jajak Pendapat yang Bebas dan Jujur), 'Laporan Komite No. 2: Pelanggaran terhadap proses pendaftaran jajak pendapat', Yayasan HAK, 26 Juli 1999.

[16] 'Milisi dan aparat mulai bentrok', MateBEAN, 22 June 1999. 

[17] Ian Martin, Self-determination in East Timor: The United Nations, the ballot, and international intervention, Boulder (Col): Lynne Riener, 2001, p73.

[18] 'Perkembangan situasi 31/8/99 (bagian 2): Kekerasan makin meningkat - Staf lokal Unamet dan pemantau jadi sasaran, Laporan, 31/8/99 - 16:48 waktu TL', Fortilos, 31 August 1999.

[19] Case 7/ 2001, Serious Crimes trial documents (

[20] Case 15/ 2001, Serious Crimes indictment.

[21] 'Interfet takes control of ambush area', AFP, 7 October 1999.

[22] 'Report on human rights violations during 1999, Ainaro district', Dili: UN Human Rights Unit, no date.

[23] Carmel Egan, 'Investigators to dig up massacre victims', The Australian, 11 January 2000.

[24] 'Humanitarian NGO Forum of West Timor: Information for the United Nations Security Council delegation regarding the situation in West Timor', posted on [email protected] by Charles Scheiner, 15 November 2000.

[25] ‘East Timor: Ex-militia leader too afraid to return home’, Lusa, 8 January 2003; Vaudine England, 'UN racism claims attacked in 'White Rajah' row', South China Morning Post, 15 January 2002.

[26] Case 6/ 2003, Serious Crimes trial documents ( Those indicted were Cancio Lopes de Carvalho, Remesio [Nemecio] Lopes de Carvalho, Orlando Batista (alias Bulak, Mahidi B Company commander, retired TNI soldier), Celestino Barros, Barnabe Barros, Vasco da Cruz, Domingos Alves, Francisco Mendez, Fernando Lopez, João Batista, Martinho Lopes, Francisco Atetulo, Manuel Gomes (alias Kompi, Mahidi A Company commander, retired TNI soldier), Felismino Lopes, Jose Lokomau, Jose Beldasi, Adriano Lopez Titimao, Alfonso Caldas, Silverto Lopes, Marcelo Gomes, Marcelino Beremali, Lino Barreto

[27] John Roosa, 'Info on ABRI's paramiliaries in East Timor’,, 12 February 1999.

[28] 'Pratiwi: Catatan perjalanan di Bumi Loro Sa'e (10)', MateBEAN, 8 October 1999.


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