TIMISOARA, ROMANIA, DEC. 27 -- Strong doubts began to surface in this city and in Bucharest today about the new Romanian provisional government's estimates of vast numbers of dead and wounded in the violent 10-day revolution that toppled longtime dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. In Bucharest, the capital, there were indications that figures of up to 80,000 dead broadcast on Romanian television may have been wildly exaggerated, while here in the birthplace of the revolt, a bizarre public dispute over casualties between civilian and military authorities highlighted the political confusion that seems to be taking hold in the city. For days, it has been a popular article of faith that two dozen decomposing bodies found in a mass grave here were the remains of anti-government protesters killed by the feared state security police. This afternoon, however, when a spokesman for the new local government told a press conference that the bodies were too old to have been those of slain demonstrators, he was promptly escorted from the room by a rifle-toting soldier. An army offical then told assembled reporters that the spokesman, Petre Borosoiu, was not competent to speak on the matter, adding yet another twist to the byzantine political situation emerging here. Before being silenced, however, Borosoiu added more fuel to the casualty controversy by telling reporters that four government planes had been used to fly the bodies of slain demonstrators from Timisoara to an unknown destination. In the capital, meanwhile, French Minister of Humanitarian Aid Bernard Kouchner said he had been told by Romanian health officials that the total number of known dead in fighting around the country over the past two weeks was 746 and that the number of wounded was 1,800. Romanian television had reported repeatedly that as many as 80,000 people had been killed by Ceausescu forces in the recent fighting and that 130,000 had been wounded. Here in Timisoara, estimates of the number of anti-Ceausescu protesters killed in the Dec. 15-17 weekend police "massacre" that sparked the nationwide revolt have reached as high as 4,500, and rumors have been rampant that the bodies of the dead were stolen away by Ceausescu's security forces before they could be counted or identified. The 4,500-figure was first reported by the official Yugoslav news agency and circulated by news agencies in neighboring East European countries and elsewhere, but doctors at city hospital here have said since that they believe "several hundred" to be a more realistic figure for the number of victims. Doctors said also that secret police conducted sweeps of city morgues after the shootings, taking away an unknown number of bodies of slain demonstrators along with bodies of people who had died at hospitals under ordinary circumstances. Of the two dozen bodies found in the mass grave -- located in a paupers' cemetery at the edge of the city -- some indeed showed signs of death by natural causes and bore large incisions characteristic of autopsies. But some were bound at the ankles with wire, others showed signs of burns from acid or other corrosive substances and still others were naked except for stockings, suggesting that they had been hastily stripped and dumped. One member of the provisional city governing committee here said today that the corpses bound with wire may have been those of victims of pre-revolution police torture and that security forces may have used the paupers' graveyard to bury their victims because few visitors come to it. In the tumult and political anarchy of the past week, it has been unclear who discovered the grave or ordered it opened. Doctors and other hospital personnel here have said it will be some time before the actual death toll is established. During the weekend police attack on protesters, many of those shot down were dragged into civilian cars and hauled away; others apparently were picked up by police in security vehicles. At some hospitals, staff members were warned by police not to accept or treat anyone wounded during the demonstrations, but few complied. And in Bucharest, the whereabouts of up to a thousand bodies that employees of one hospital said were secretly transported out of the city last Thursday still remains a mystery. The deaths occurred when student demonstrators were shot by security police snipers firing from rooftops and troops massed in the capital's University Square, doctors and nurses said. Throughout the country, meanwhile, the shooting seems to have stopped for the most part, and this city was largely quiet for a second straight day after nearly two weeks of often savage street fighting. There was some sniper fire from die-hard Ceausescu loyalists in several parts of the city last night and early today but no immediate reports of new casualties. Soldiers guard all important installations, there are still tanks stationed at intersections and at times this evening it seemed as if the army feared some kind of final suicide attack by the remnants of Ceausescu's disenfranchised security force. Secret police hold-outs and other armed Ceausescu sympathizers have been given until 5 p.m. Thursday to turn themselves in for military trial or face summary execution. By day here, the public mood seems to alternate between elation over new-won freedom and paranoia that the old style of government will not change just because Ceausescu is gone. Political dispute has shifted from open warfare to the contentious business of self-government, and the city is grappling with the question of just how many of the city's Communist former officials deserve to be part of a new leadership. At the old municipal party headquarters here, the leader of the interim city governing committee, Lorin Fortuna, presided over a gathering of local factory and government supervisors to elect new worksite managers. The meeting was civil and orderly for the most part, but the first order of business was a challenge to Fortuna's legitimacy and authority. "Who elected you?" demanded one participant. "I was elected by the people in front of the opera house," Fortuna said. The opera house sits at one end of the central square where police first opened fire on demonstrators, and Fortuna and other members of the new committee took the lead role there in organizing anti-Ceausescu forces after the shootings. After occupying the opera house along with other citizens, Fortuna used the opera sound system to broadcast prayers and patriotic songs over the building's exterior loudspeakers to give courage to the demonstrators, committee members and others said. Some here have complained that the new committee has at least 12 senior Communists among its membership, including the former head of the regional party, Radu Balan. At the committee meeting this evening, Balan's defenders rose to say that he had been with the demonstrators in the square and had tried to prevent police from shooting. "How can he prove he really did that?" a sceptic in the audience shouted, and a university professor declared that Balan's presence on the committee was a blot on Timosoara's new government. By the end of the meeting, participants said, Balan's position had been altered from that of committee member to committee adviser. No one here expects the local governing committee to be permanent. "This committee was formed of people who had the courage to take us through the revolution, but they may not be capable of changing our situation after that," one young member said. In a country where the only political activity for four decades has been Communist Party membership, many citizens here seem resigned at least for the time being to the idea that they cannot exclude party members from official functions. Instead, they say, they will concentrate on excluding those who have shown themselves to be corrupt, incompetent or brutal. Fortuna said that this region of western Romania must now concentrate on the economy rather than politics, and in grocery stores today shoppers seemd to agree, flexing their new-found freedom to criticize aloud the offerings of week-old bread and spongy pink meat. Under Ceausescu, any statement that could be remotely interpreted as critical of him or the government apparatus was likely to result in arrest. For many here, the lightning changes of the past two weeks seem almost too good to be true. Among them is Petru Dugulescu, a 45-year-old Baptist minister who has been persecuted all his adult life for his religious beliefs. Dugulescu has spent the past few days preaching and ministering to a congregation badly shaken by the bloody civil strife that has released them from the repression of the Ceausescu regime. Today, he helped a woman bury her 36-year-old husband, who was shot in the head by a sniper. Another member of his flock is still missing, and yet another lost a leg when he was hit by a bullet while trying to place a lighted candle in the central square last week. But this evening, Dugulescu went to the provisional government meeting, sat in the audience and spoke his mind amidst the factory managers and former leaders in the local party. "I can't comprehend it yet," he said. "It's like a dream. We've prayed many years for this."