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Deputy commander
Sakunar militia
Ambeno (Oecussi)

Laurentino ('Moko') Soares

Deputy commander, Sakunar ('Scorpion') militia, Oecussi (Pante Makassar), Ambeno district

Sakunar already appears in 1998 as one of many militia organisations institutionally attached to the Indonesian armed forces.[1] It consisted of a large number of school dropouts.[2] Like all the older militias, Saikunar experienced an injection of fresh organisational energy and especially money in April 1999.[3]

Sakunar had its headquarters within the Ambeno military base (Kodim 1639, led for at least part of 1999 by LtCol Kamiso Miran). In its first burst of activity in 1999, in April and May, it mostly intimidated public servants into voting for Indonesia in the ballot.[4]

The day after returning from the large militia rally in Dili of 17 April, bringing with them five firearms for the Sakunar leaders, Sakunar militia members and Battalion 745 soldiers detained and beat up around 45 CNRT leaders.

On 1 May 1999 the Sakunar militia was officially inaugurated at a ceremony in Oecussi attended by Governor Abilio Soares, Dili district chief Domingos Soares, Oecussi district chief Filomeno Misquito da Costa, Oecussi district military commander Kamiso Mira [Miran], Oecussi police chief Wilmar Marpaung, PPI commander Joao Tavares and his deputy Eurico Guterres. Some of the 100 CNRT members forced to attend were publicly beaten up during the ceremony by Sakunar member Sgt Anton Sabraka (see LtCol Bambang Sungesti), resulting in the CNRT closing down its office in that district. Sakunar commander Simao Lopes acted as master of ceremonies.[5]

Laurentino 'Moko' Soares, approximately 38 years in 1999, was de facto second-in-command of Sakunar militia to Simao Lopes. The former head of Cunha village near Pante Makassar, he took over from his predecessor Antonito Corbafu, who was regarded as too pacific, in August 1999. Sakunar's operational commander was Belarmino da Costa, who is also mentioned as having his own militia called Meo ('Warrior').[6]

Moko Soares had a reputation for extreme cruelty. On one occasion in 1999 he made a new recruit shoot dead his own uncle. Moko then took the new recruit to a neighbouring village where Moko shot the unfortunate man's own brother dead before his eyes.[7]

Between 7 and 19 July 1999 Moko Soares was a leading figure in a series of planning meetings held at the sub-district office of Costa in Ambeno. Others present included the other militia leaders Simao Lopes, Belarmino da Costa, and Elvis Lopes (Simao Lopes' son), as well as the sub-district head (camat) of Pante Makassar, Miguel Soares. The discussion concerned how to eliminate pro-independence sentiment in the village of Costa by means of intimidation or even murder. It was decided that up to 100 firearms would be distributed to the Sakunar militiamen for an operation on 24 July. It is not known if this operation was in fact carried out.[8] 

Appendix 5 of the KPP HAM report, which lists perpetrators of crimes against humanity,  details seven events in which Sakunar was implicated, often in conjunction with police and military. Six or seven people were killed during an attack by BMP and Sakunar militiamen on the (reopened) CNRT office in Pante Makassar on 17 August 1999 - two of them CNRT supporters, the others from BMP.[9]

The worst atrocity took place after the ballot, over three days 8-10 September 1999. The hamlets of Tumin, Kiobiselo (Quebesilo), Nonkikan (Nonquican) and Nibin, all in Nitibe sub-district near Passabe in the south, were first attacked by a combined Sakunar-TNI force at about 6am on 8 September. According to the Dili indictment, Moko Soares led one of the two militia groups that conducted the first phase of the attack, the other being led by Simao Lopes and Gabriel Kolo. These impoverished villages had been pro-independence supporters. The attack left 18 dead. Gabriel Kolo and two soldiers carried on another atrocity the next day.[10]

It took until 22 October for Interfet to reach the Ambeno enclave. In the interval, Moko Soares conducted a reign of terror. Practically the entire population fled their homes. On 20 September Sakunar militiamen killed seven more East Timorese, three in Bokos village and four in Maquelab village.[11] The latter were personally executed by Moko Soares before the horrified crowd. On 23 September Sakunar militia attacked 5,000 refugees sheltering in the hills at Cutete, leaving one dead and one injured. On 28 September Moko Soares set fire to about 350 abandoned homes belonging to CNRT supporters.[12] On 2 October 1999, Sakunar and Besi Merah Putih militias destroyed the entire village of Cutete.[13]

On 20 October, according to the indictment against Gen Wiranto and others (clauses 136-142), TNI soldiers and Sakunar militias attacked and captured a large number of civilians hiding in the Betunes Mountains of Oecussi district. They force-marched them to the market place at Makelab (Maquelab), a hamlet in Taiboco village, near Pante Makassar. There militias executed six independence supporters, named Justilioda Costa, Paulus Kelo, Mateus Tone, Domingos Kelo, Fransisco Taek and JoaoTalias. Later the same day militias found Domingos Fone in the mountains, and killed him too. Interfet had been in East Timor for a month, but did not reach Oecussi until 22 October.

After Interfet assumed control in East Timor, the militia was officially 'disbanded' on 13 December 1999, but it in fact was not disbanded at all.[14] Interfet placed great pressure on Indonesian military commander Kiki Syahnakri to arrest Moko Soares, because his militiamen were continuing to launch raids across the border into East Timor. Interfet told the Kefamenanu military district commander, LtCol Manurung, that the Kostrad Battalion 432 (guarding the border area near Ambeno and commanded by Maj Eriet Hadi Uriyanto) was allowing Sakunar to operate with 'impunity'.[15]

Moko Soares was eventually arrested by Indonesian military and police on 7 February 2000, and sentenced to eighteen months jail on 26 April 2000. The sentence was for attempting to sell a gun to a local farmer - thus unrelated to his 1999 militia activities.[16] Peeved, Moko Soares complained in court that he had been abandoned by TNI, and went on to make a damaging revelation.[17]

The firearms, he said, were give to him by two Kopassus (SGI) officers, named Bambang and Zainuddin.[18] These two men were not further identified. Could they be respectively Maj RM Bambang Wisnumurthy, intelligence chief for East Timor and known to be responsible for distributing weapons, and LtCol Tatang Zaenuddin SW (Zainuddin), Kopassus officer and the commander of combat Sector B, which included Ambeno? The latter acknowledged that he had 'overseen' the training of militias.

However, the Indonesian court did not pursue this important lead. The prosecutor rejected Soares' defence statement that the guns (now described as 'organic' - ie TNI weapons) were legal because they had been 'given' to him by TNI members to defend the pro-integration cause.[19]

A Portuguese TV crew interviewed Moko Soares at length in Kefamenanu, a town in West Timor just east of the enclave, before his arrest. They believed this material helped convict Moko Soares.[20]

In October 2001, Moko Soares was among eleven men indicted before the Serious Crimes Panel in Dili District Court for the Passabe massacre. Other Sakunar militia men indicted for crimes against humanity were:

  • Simao Lopes (49), Sakunar commander
  • Gabriel Colo (Kolo), 50, police officer, Passabe village chief and local Sakunar leader in Passabe
  • Bonificio Bobo alias Bone, approx. 36, Sakunar member in Bobometo area
  • Tomas Bubun, teacher in government schoo, Sakunar militia member
  • Elvis Lopes, government employee, Sakunar militia member
  • Domingos Obe, Sakunar militia member
  • Julio Falio da Costa, Sakunar militia member
  • Floreneo (Florenco) Tacaqui, 38, teacher in government school, Sakunar member in Passabe

Two TNI sergeants were also indicted (see LtCol Bambang Sungesti). All suspects remained at large except Tacaqui, who was in detention in Dili awaiting trial. The indictment said the massacre had been planned at a meeting in the enclave on 7 September 1999. 'It was state-sponsored and organised ... a real merciless extermination,' said prosecutor Mohamed Othman.[21]

Extra Information

Implicated in Events:
Passabe - 10/09/1999 - Massacre at Passabe, Ambeno (Oecusse enclave)

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

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
Gabriel Kolo
Simao Lopes
LtCol Kamiso Miran
LtCol Bambang Sungesti
Maj Eriet Hadi Uriyanto
Maj Bambang Wisnumurthy
LtCol Tatang Zaenuddin

[1] '50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: January – December 1998 - A summary of human rights violations based on reports, complaints, and investigations conducted by the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission - Iustitia et Pax - East Timor', Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission (Report delivered in the press conference in Camara Eclesiastica), 11 December 1998; 'East Timor under the Indonesian jackboot: An analysis of Indonesian army documents', Tapol, 15 November 1999.

[2] 'Sakunar militia masterminded the Ambeno attack' [English translation], Surya Timor, 23 September 1999.

[3] Amnesty International ('East Timor: Seize the moment', ASA 21/49/99, 21 June 1999) incorrectly reports an establishment date of 18 April 1999, that is, immediately after the big militia rally in Dili.

[4] 'HAK: Laporan situasi HAM Timor Timur April 1999 (1)', MateBEAN, 25 May 1999; 'East Timor: Possible "disappearance" - Jose Talue', Amnesty International (UA 147/99, ASA 21/52/99), 25 June 1999; '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; 'Paramiliter Sakunar di Oekussi', MateBEAN, 20 April 1999.

[5] Case 20/ 2001, Serious Crimes trial documents ( According to Amnesty International ('East Timor: Seize the moment', 21 June 1999, ASA 21/49/99), two others present at this ceremony were East Timor military commander Col Tono Suratman, and East Timor police chief Col (Pol) Timbul Silaen.

[6] Carolyn Graydon, 'Report on human rights violations during 1999, Oecussi district',Dili: UN Human Rights Unit, November 2001. This excellent report will be the standard account for Oecussi in 1999.

[7] Richard Lloyd Parry, 'A cynical bandit and vicious murderer', The Independent [UK], 31 January 2000.

[8] 'Laporan pemantauan di Kab. Ambeno tgl 20-21 Juli 1999', Kiper Jakarta <[email protected]>, 23 July 1999.

[9] 'Perkembangan situasi, 31/8/99 (bagian 3): Situasi masih mengkhawatirkan - Apa rencana TNI dan Polri?', Fortilos <[email protected]>, 1 September 1999.

[10] 'Report on human rights violations during 1999, Oecussi district',Dili: UN Human Rights Unit, no date;  Case 20/ 2001, Serious Crimes trial documents (; John Aglionby, 'Troops charged over Timor "extermination"', The Guardian, 28 September 2001. Some inaccuracies occur in James Dunn, 'Crimes against humanity in East Timor, January to October 1999: Their nature and causes', Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 2001. The Dunn report says these soldiers were from 745 Battalion, but that seems impossible, since 745 was at the time in Lospalos. The error has been widely quoted. It also incorrectly said Gabriel Colo was Ambeno police chief.

[11] James Dunn, 'Crimes against humanity in East Timor, January to October 1999: Their nature and causes', Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 2001, Annex B - Select chronology May 1998 - October 1999.

[12] Surya Timor, 30 September 1999.

[13] 'Oecusse: further killings in the forgotten enclave', East Timor Human Rights Centre media release, 4 October 1999.

[14] 'Ceremony heralds "end" of E. Timor's militias', The Jakarta Post, 14 December 1999.

[15] 'East Timor: Interfet, Indonesian officers discuss Oe Cusse militia clashes', Lusa, 21 January 2000. See also chapter 6 in Bob Breen, Mission accomplished, East Timor: The Australian Defence Force participation in the International Forces East Timor (Interfet), Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2000.

[16] 'Moko Soares sentenced to 1.6 years' [English translation], NTT Ekspres, 27 April 2000.

[17] 'Moko Soares disappointed to be left by TNI: Continuation of fire arms trial' [English translation], NTT Ekspres, 12 April 2000.

[18] 'Moko Soares: that weapon sold by TNI members' [English translation], Surya Timor, 11 April 2000; Karen Polglaze, 'Timor  militia leader Moko back in court', AAP, 10 April 2000; 'End of Moko’s confession, military police examine two TNI individuals' [English translation], Surya Timor, 7 April 2000.

[19] 'Prosecuting attorney rejects defense statement, demands two year sentence for Moko Soares' (English translation), Surya Timor, 24 April 2000.

[20] 'Portuguese TV crew detained in West Timor', Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 7 February 2000.

[21] 'Oecussi crimes against humanity indictment filed', Untaet daily briefing (United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor), 28 September 2001.


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