Tuesday, February 12, 2008

East Timor News Bulletin: President Ramos-Horta Critically Wounded Near Dili; Curfew Imposed

Doctors hopeful for Timor leader

Australian doctors are hopeful East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta will recover from bullet wounds he received during an attack by rebel soldiers.

Mr Ramos-Horta was shot three times in the stomach and chest on Monday in an early-morning attack on his home.

He was airlifted to Australia for treatment, where he remains in a critical condition.

US President George W Bush condemned the attack and said it would not derail democracy in the fledging country.

The UN Security Council has also denounced the attempt on Mr Ramos-Horta's life and wished him a speedy recovery.

Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and another rebel died in the assassination attempt on Mr Ramos-Horta.

Heavy patrols

Following the attack in the capital, Dili, the government announced a two-day state of emergency, including a night-time curfew.

In a televised address on Tuesday, acting President Vicente Gutterres said demonstrations were banned, and that police would have powers to raid homes at will.

Dili is reported to be quiet and heavily patrolled by local and foreign security forces.

Australian PM Kevin Rudd pledged to send more peacekeepers to East Timor.

He said the "attempt to assassinate the democratically elected leadership of a close friend and neighbour of Australia's is a deeply disturbing development".

An Australian-led UN force has been in charge of security in the capital since mid-2006.

Peacekeepers were invited into the country to quell violent clashes between police and the military, triggered by then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's decision to sack a third of the armed forces.

Loss of blood

After the shooting, Mr Ramos-Horta was taken to a hospital run by the Australian military in Dili, and was later evacuated to Darwin.

His condition is described as "serious but stable", and the Darwin hospital's general manager said he was hopeful for a full recovery.

"Doctors believe that Jose Ramos-Horta's fitness and mental strength have been decisive factors," Dr Len Notaras told the BBC.

"After losing such a huge amount of blood in the shooting, his medical team has said he's very fortunate to have survived."

Dr Notaras said three surgeons had operated on Mr Ramos-Horta for more than two hours on Monday night, dressing wounds and removing shrapnel.

The Nobel peace laureate will undergo further surgery.

East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who was targeted in a separate incident but was unharmed, described the events as a coup attempt.

Shots were also fired at Mr Gusmao's convoy, shortly after the attack on Mr Ramos-Horta, but no-one was hurt.

Unrest fear

In 2006, at least 37 people were killed in several weeks of fighting on the small Pacific island and more than 150,000 were forced to flee their homes.

Reinado, a former naval commander, was accused of being involved in several shooting incidents during the violence and charged with murder.

However he escaped from jail and took refuge in the mountains. A continued stand-off with the government had led to fears of renewed violence.

Mr Ramos-Horta spent 24 years in exile after Indonesian troops invaded East Timor in 1975, leading the country's bid for independence and winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

He served in the more powerful role of prime minister in the wake of the 2006 violence, before elections last year which saw him switch roles with then President Xanana Gusmao.

East Timor gained independence in 2002.

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Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/12 03:28:13 GMT

Curfew after East Timor shooting

An overnight curfew is in effect in East Timor after President Jose Ramos-Horta was shot in an attack at his home near the capital, Dili.

Correspondents say the city is calm but tense, amid fears that the attack could spark a return to factional bloodshed.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who was also attacked but was unhurt, said rebels who shot the president were attempting a coup.

Mr Ramos-Horta's condition is described as serious but stable.

He was airlifted to a hospital in the city of Darwin in Australia, where he was put on a ventilator in intensive care.

Australia, which leads a peacekeeping force in East Timor, says it is sending about 150 more troops to help stabilise the situation.

"This government will stand resolutely with the democratically-elected government of East Timor at this time of crisis," said Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Protest ban

Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and another rebel died in the attack on Mr Ramos-Horta.

Several hours after the shooting, Mr Gusmao declared a 48-hour state of emergency, including a curfew from 2000 to 0600.

Gatherings and protests are also banned.

"The state will not tolerate any armed organisations or groups aiming at bringing down this state," he said.

The government was taking all steps necessary to ensure that people were protected and secure, he added.

At least 37 people were killed and 150,000 displaced in fighting between police and military in 2006, after then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri sacked a third of the armed forces.

BBC East Asia editor Andre Vornic says the recent violence and assassination attempts raise doubts about the success of nation-building efforts in East Timor.

Though nursed through its early years by the international community, the country is one of the world's poorest, torn between hostile factions.

'Coup attempt'

The attack on Mr Ramos-Horta happened before dawn on Monday (2200 GMT Sunday).
Founder of East Timor's independence movement
Spent 24 years in exile after Indonesia invaded
Won Nobel Peace Prize in 1996
Former journalist, fluent in five languages
He was shot from two cars which drove past his house on the outskirts of Dili.

He suffered three gunshot wounds - one in the stomach and two in the chest - and his condition is described as "serious but stable".

But the Darwin hospital's general manager said he was hopeful of a full recovery.

"The fact that he is in a stable condition is a good sign that we should see some reasonable outcomes for him," Dr Len Notaras told AFP news agency.

"He's not fighting for his life but his injuries are extremely serious."

Shots were also fired at Mr Gusmao's convoy, shortly after the attack on Mr Ramos-Horta, but no-one was hurt.

Afterwards, Mr Gusmao told a press briefing that the situation was under control.

"I consider this incident a coup attempt against the state by Reinado and it failed," he said.

Jail break

An Australian-led UN force has been in charge of security in the capital since the clashes in mid-2006.

Reinado, a former naval commander, was accused of being involved in several shooting incidents during the violence and charged with murder.

But he escaped from jail and, with a group of followers, holed himself up in the mountains, refusing government pleas to surrender.

His continued stand-off with the government had led to fears of renewed violence.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/11 15:45:08 GMT

Timorese shock at leader's shooting

East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta is in a critical condition after after being shot by rebel soldiers.

Here people in the capital Dili express their shock and bewliderment at the assassination attempt.


I feel very sad. This is a terrible situation. Ramos-Horta is a great man and a charismatic leader.

But I also feel sad at the killing of Alfredo Reinado, a great sadness that the situation had to come to this. I do not believe he needed to have been shot dead. I wish they could have resolved their differences at the negotiating table.

I suppose the swiftness with which they reacted is a message to the groups of people who are planning and conspiring against the government.

After all we in East Timor have seen a lot of violence over the last two years and there are still many who say they will come to do violence against the government.

There is no leader in East Timor who can replace Ramos-Horta. He built up his reputation over many years. He dealt with so many things, was very experienced. We trust him a great deal and he has been a guiding hand through independence.

I am worried about instability in East Timor but I'm hoping for the best. I'm hoping that the rogue elements in our society will try to achieve their ends through negotiations and not violence.


Everyone is feeling astounded and bewildered with what has happened here. It's unbelievable that something like that could happen here in Dili and so suddenly.

It caught everyone by surprise. A state of emergency has been declared by the prime minister.

Dili is calm at the moment. We had our prime minister making a plea to the people not to incite violence or create rumours unnecessarily. We were told to remain indoors and to talk to one another.

The police have been given enhanced powers to search people. I believe that some members of the group are still at large in Dili.

We were here during the last crisis and things descended to chaos very quickly. That happened without an international presence. I think international peacekeepers are doing a good job of keeping violence at bay. Having them here gives a lot of confidence to the community. I feel it is very hard for anyone to create violence en masse.

Ramos-Horta is a leader who is truly internationally recognised. He had everybody's respect. We need more people like that here.

I think things were getting back on track after he came into power. A lot of investment started to come back to East Timor. There was an air of confidence.


Life is carrying on as usual. Things are still running well. We heard about the assassination attempt early this morning when people ran all around Dili town to convey the message. Some schools closed, many workers didn't turn up to their jobs.
I heard that many university students also left their lessons because they were so worried.

Everybody remembers the violence we experienced two years ago.

I am not upset and worried. I did not vote for Ramos-Horta but I support him because most people wanted him to be the president. I would not say that he has done a good job but I would not say he has done a bad job either. I do believe that he can be replaced. We have people in waiting. Every president has a deputy.

At the moment I am looking to Dili and I am wondering if there will be violence. I do not think so. The situation is under control. There is a heavy police presence.


After what happened this morning, I do not think the situation in Dili is very calm. Many people are staying at home. Public and private transportation is scarce. People are afraid to do their normal jobs and even some public servants haven't turned up to work. I know that some schools also didn't open today. Nobody knows what will happen next.

There are so many factors uniting us - yet we still fight each other and there is still a great deal of hatred.

Many people are afraid and confused about what will happen.

I too feel confused. I have never had to encounter this kind of situation before. He is the head of state and I cannot believe he was attacked like this.

He is the man who tried so many times to effect reconciliation between Timorese in this country. How could this happen to him as the head of state and as a Timorese?

There are so many factors uniting us. Ninety five per cent of people in this country are Catholic. Yet we still fight each other and there is still a great deal of hatred.

People are not aware of the meaning of this independence we fought so hard for. We should have been working together to develop this country rather than create violence. Outsiders may think that we fought for independence only to fight amongst ourselves afterwards.

Ramos-Horta is a very good leader, very charismatic. During the crisis last year I met him and I saw how he walked around Dili's most difficult districts talking to people affected by the problems.

He is a very good man. He wants to hold everyone together. He wants every group in this country united.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/11 11:59:55 GMT


E Timor president shot in attack

Nelson da Cruz
Mon, 11 Feb 2008

Rebel soldiers opened fire on the homes of East Timor's two top leaders on Monday in co-ordinated attacks that wounded the President and Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, the government said.

Rebel boss Alfredo Reinado was killed in the attack at Ramos-Horta's house, the deputy premier said, as the fledgling nation was plunged into fresh turmoil following 2006 unrest that saw international peacekeepers deployed to restore calm.

Reinado was a key figure in the unrest and was arrested on charges of illegal weapons distribution, desertion and attempted murder. He had however escaped from jail and eluded security forces since then.

Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres said Ramos-Horta (58) had been injured by gunmen in the pre-dawn attack at his residence on the outskirts of the seaside capital of Dili, but his condition was not life threatening.

"He will survive, and this country will survive", Guterres told reporters.

Guterres said that two carloads of people went to the president's house at around 6am (9pm GMT) and "assaulted him, but after rapid reaction by security his attackers fled away."

Neighbour Luis Vieira said he was awakened at 6.50am by an intense exchange of fire coming from the president's residence, which lasted around 20 minutes.

Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa said Ramos-Horta had undergone exploratory surgery at an Australian military hospital in Dili. Da Costa described the president's condition as "stable".

"He underwent surgery to locate bullets. One had hit him in the back and passed through to the stomach," he said.

Ramos-Horta was to be evacuated to the Australian city of Darwin for treatment accompanied by his sister, the minister added.

Prime minister attacked

Gunmen attacked the house of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao shortly after Ramos-Horta came under assault, Guterres also told CNN.

"The attack was on the president's residence around 6am (9pm GMT on Sunday) and at around 7.30am they ambushed the prime minister," he said.

A neighbour of Gusmao, Leandro Isa'ac said: "rounds of automatic fire were fired against Xanana's residence".

Gusmao and his Australian wife Kirsty Sword live at Balibar, in the foothills south of Dili.

Addressing a press briefing, Gusmao said that the situation was under control.

"Even though the state has been attacked by an armed group and the president was wounded, the state is in control of stability... The current situation is proceeding normally and is under control," Gusmao said.

East Timor rebel leader Reinado was shot dead at Ramos-Horta's residence, Guterres said. "Major Reinado was killed and at the same time one of the presidential guards was injured," Guterres said.

"They attacked the head of state and the supreme commander of this country and the reaction of the security guards provoked his death," he said, adding that security forces were hunting for more of the attackers.

The attack came amid heightening tension in East Timor after Reinado and his gang fired warning shots on a UN police patrol last week when the patrol stumbled on the rebels.

Unrest two years ago was initially triggered when the government sacked about 600 soldiers who had deserted, complaining of discrimination.

Factions within the security forces clashed on Dili's streets, leading to at least 37 deaths and forcing East Timor's government to call for international peacekeepers to be deployed to restore stability.

More than 150 000 people were forced from their homes and the majority remain in camps at night, still too concerned about the fragile security situation to return home, or with no homes to return to.

Ramos-Horta was elected president in peaceful elections last year after serving as foreign minister and prime minister, while Gusmao was elected as prime minister after serving as president.

A statement from the UN said that UN police "are on a high state of alert and co-ordinating with the International Security Forces... The United Nations Integrated Mission regrets that such incidents have taken place."


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