Peacekeepers said Tuesday that 20 corpses were found at a single site in the town of Liquisa, but U.N. officials quickly cast doubt on the report.
In Dili, the capital of East Timor, spokesman Col. Mark Kelly of the Australian-led multinational force disclosed the discovery of the bodies at a news conference. Hours later, Lt. Col. Enrique Reske of the U.N. mission in the territory told journalists in Liquisa that the site, in the outlying village of Maumeta, contained no more than eight bodies.
"Twenty? No way," said Reske, the top military liaison in the Liquisa area. He said four sets of remains had been dug up and that several more might still be buried at the site.
Kelly said that peacekeepers did not know how or when the victims died but that the area had been secured and investigators dispatched to the scene. Reske said the road between Liquisa and Maumeta was still considered unsafe.
Liquisa, about 20 miles west of Dili, was one of the areas hardest hit in an outbreak of violence by paramilitary forces opposed to independence for East Timor. In April, the town was the scene of a church massacre in which, witnesses said, about two dozen people were hacked to death by machete-wielding militiamen.