Father Dewanto was the first to die, said Sister Mary Barudero.

The militiamen had lined up outside the old wooden church filled with refugees in the East Timorese town of Suai on Monday afternoon, and parishioners watched as the young Indonesian Jesuit priest, dressed in his clerical robes, stepped out to meet the trouble.

A burst of gunfire cut him down. Father Francisco followed. The militiamen waited for the senior parish priest, Father Hilario. When he did not emerge, a witness said, they kicked down the door to his study and sprayed him with automatic weapons fire.

A nun who watched the massacre from the window of her house described the scene to Barudero less than an hour later. The nun told her the militiamen entered the church and began firing long bursts from their weapons at the crowd of refugees. Then they threw hand grenades among the huddled victims.

Inside, there had been only young children and women, babies at their mothers' breasts and pregnant women, Barudero said. The men had fled days earlier. Barudero, who works as a nurse, had sent four of the pregnant women back to the church from her hospital in Suai just two hours earlier to await the onset of labor.

"They went to the church because that's where they felt safe; they felt being near the priests was protection," said the 64-year-old nun, vainly fighting her tears.

Her account of the massacre, also reported Thursday by the Vatican's missionary news agency, Fides, is one of the most graphic descriptions of the violence in East Timor to emerge in the week since local militia groups opposed to independence from Jakarta began a bloody rampage through the territory with support from the Indonesian military.

Roman Catholic clergy, seen by the militias as having supported independence for East Timor, were among the first victims. Most citizens of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, are Roman Catholics; Indonesia, which annexed the territory in 1976, is the world's largest Muslim country.

Barudero, a Philippine-born Indonesian citizen who is member of the French order of Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, agreed to talk to a reporter here in western Timor, because, she said, "I have lived my life. I am not afraid to die."

Other refugees still feel the militias' reach in the supposed safety of western Timor -- part of another Indonesian province -- and have been warned not to talk to reporters. Barudero's colleague who watched the massacre, a member of the Canossian order, has fled to Darwin, Australia, but is still afraid to be identified, she said.

Barudero said the militia that carried out the massacre had been active in the area and was well known to residents. Of the three priests who died, young Father Dewanto was an Indonesian citizen from Java who arrived in Suai just three weeks before the massacre and had been ordained only a month before that. Father Hilario, who had been in the town for some time, was well known as a supporter of independence for East Timor, according to Fides.

Fides said also that about 100 people were killed in the Suai massacre. It quoted witnesses as saying 15 priests were killed in the cities of Baukau and Dili, the capital, and that some nuns were killed in Baukau.

Here in the western half of the island of Timor, refugees who fled the violence in East Timor still have cause for fear. The militiamen who brought destruction to East Timor have taken control of the 84,000 refugees now in camps in western Timor and move freely around the city. Some are armed; some seem intent on intimidating foreigners and refugees. Foreigners have not been allowed into the camps.

At a refugee camp in Atambua, near the border with East Timor, a man identified as a supporter of independence was killed Wednesday, apparently by militiamen.

An official of Catholic Relief Services who had just returned from Atambua provided some confirmation of reports that East Timorese who favor independence were forcibly removed from the territory. "If you ask the refugees once, they say they left because it was unsafe and they had to leave their houses. But if you ask again, they will tell you that the soldiers terrorized them and made them come," said William Openg, an Indonesian relief worker for Catholic Relief Services.

Although many in the refugee camps are said to be opponents of independence -- like the militiamen -- those who support the outcome of the Aug. 30 referendum favoring independence do not necessarily acknowledge it. "They are afraid to show their faces; it could cost them their lives," said Agapitus Prasetya, an Indonesian UNICEF worker who has been in the refugee camps. "The militias are everywhere. They are all over."

Anti-foreigner passions have been whipped up by the militias, and even Indonesian UNICEF staff members distributing food to the refugees strip the UNICEF signs off their cars, he said.

"The militias are killing people, and the people are threatened" in western Timor," complained a Catholic clergyman who fled Dili only to find militiamen in control of refugee camps in western Timor. "Where is the law and order in Indonesia? The militias, the military and the police are above the law."

He and several other clergy members described their flight from East Timor on condition that their names not be used. They said they fear consequences from the Indonesian military and Timorese militias.

One nun who lived in Dili said the gunfire began about three hours after the ballot result approving independence was announced last Saturday.

"It was really frightening. We couldn't go out of the house," she said. "We could see a lot of fires. It looked like they would use diesel gas, because the fires would be big black balls, and then you could see white smoke from houses. That was everywhere."

On Monday, she and other nuns decided it was too dangerous and left in an old pickup truck in a convoy escorted by police. As they passed through Dili, she saw a surrealistic scene of fires and lawlessness, she said.

"It was remarkable. There was shooting going on, and people were running for their lives. But others were looting the stores, very calmly, as though they were so relaxed." She said she saw some looters loading goods into military trucks.

In one section, "all the stores were razed," she said. "I saw a lot of military, and of course, the militias. Some people were ransacking, and some people were looting. The whole place was in ruins, except for the government buildings."

"And there were a lot of people moving out, because their houses were burning."

Another clergyman said the gunfire intensified after the referendum results were announced last Friday. "God, it was frightening," he said. "There were motorcycles running all over, bringing military and militias. You could hear the big guns of the military."

On Tuesday, water, electricity and telephone lines were cut in his section of Dili, and he decided to leave, the clergyman said. He passed many burned houses, he said. "It seemed the pro-independence houses were targeted. But the referendum was approved 4 to 1, so they didn't have to go very far."

"I never saw any instance of refugees being forced by gunpoint," said a priest. "Our people did not want to leave. But they were told if they stayed, the houses would be burned and they might be killed. They were forced out by fear."

The militias were particularly strong in the western areas of East Timor, where Barudero and four other nursing nuns ran a hospital in Suai and where priests ran the church where the massacre occurred.

Barudero said she was not intending to leave, even after the men fled, even after more victims of the rising violence came to the hospital, even after she and the other nuns had to dig a grave for a victim on the grounds of the hospital. The victim's relatives were too afraid to claim him or were victims themselves, she said.

But after the massacre, "there was no one left to help. They had all left or been killed. And I knew, if we stayed, we could be killed," she said. "I am old. I'm ready to die. But the young sisters would not go unless I went. They have many years left to help people. Finally, I said, `Pack what you can. We will leave.' "