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A Brutal Exit

Battalion 745

PART 1: MARCH 13

A deadly highway rendezvous.

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PART 2: TODAY

Post-referendum backlash in Los Palos.

PART 3: MARCH 16

Pulling out: a firefight with rebels.

PART 4: MARCH 17

Encounters in Dili and epilogue.

Financial Times reporter and Monitor contributor Sander Thoenes boarded the chartered aircraft and found a seat next to a friend, freelance journalist Diarmid O'Sullivan. It was Sept. 21 and the two men were bound for Dili, East Timor's capital.

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Thoenes was his usual pragmatic self, says his colleague. They both grimaced at the unappetizing airplane lunch placed before them. "We'd better eat it," Thoenes said, in light of the scarcity of food in Dili.

The charter landed at Dili's airport a little after 3 p.m. Australian troops, who had landed the day before, were clearly in control of the facility. On the way into town, the reporters saw some East Timorese wandering around, apparently safe. "We got a false sense of security," Mr. O'Sullivan says.

They were not at all complacent about their deadlines. Like any journalists at the scene of a major story, they could feel their internal clocks ticking: think fast, move fast, work fast. And as secure as the city appeared, they wanted to get their reporting done before nightfall.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society