Indonesian invasion of East Timor

Decolonization of the Pacific

Australasia 1976.0113

Indonesian invasion of East Timor

Decolonization of the Pacific (13 January 1976)

Historical Map of Australia, New Zealand & the Southwest Pacific

In 1974 Portugal's staunchly colonialist dictatorship was overthrown, encouraging the Portuguese colony on Timor to declare independence as East Timor. Indonesia immediately claimed and invaded the new country, but took three years of fighting to complete the conquest. Low-level East Timorese resistance would continue until the Indonesians finally withdrew in 1999.

Main Events

Carnation Revolution

The left-wing Armed Forces Movement undertook a military coup in Lisbon, Portugal, to overthrow the dictatorial regime of the Estado Novo under Marcelo Caetano. The bloodless success of the coup was greeted by widespread popular support and civil resistance against the remnants of the old regime. The revolution led to free elections one year later, and the Portuguese withdrawal from most of their colonies.

Independence of Papua New Guinea

The Territory of Papua New Guinea was granted independence by the Commonwealth of Australia, becoming the independent state of Papua New Guinea with Chief Minister Michael Somare as Prime Minister. The country joined the United Nations on 10 October 1975.

End of Portuguese rule in Timor

After winning elections in July 1975 and defeating a pro-Indonesian coup attempt in August, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) unilaterally declared the independence of East Timor from Portugal. The Portuguese, whose new liberal government had scheduled Timor's independence for 1978, had already fled Dili in response to the August violence.

Indonesian invasion of East Timor

In Operasi Seroja (Operation Lotus), the Indonesian navy bombarded Dili, capital of newly independent East Timor, followed by the simultaneous landing of Indonesian seaborne troops and paratroopers. Further assaults captured Bacau on 10 December and Liquisa and Maubara on Christmas Day. However, East Timorese troops held out in the interior until 1978, and sporadic guerrilla warfare would continue into the 1990s.

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