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Asia-Pacific
E Timor declares state of emergency
Government announces curfew a day after president is wounded in rebel attack.
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2008 05:52 GMT
The United Nations has appealed for calm in the wake of Monday's attacks [Reuters]

East Timor has declared a 48-hour state of emergency a day after the country's president, Jose Ramos-Horta, was shot and wounded in a failed assassination attempt.

 

Ramos-Horta was wounded in the stomach during Monday's attack on his home in the East Timorese capital, Dili, and is currently in a stable condition at an Australian hospital.

An hour after the attack Xanana Gusmao, the country's prime minister and former resistance leader, escaped injury when his motorcade also came under fire.

 

The UN, which has put its security forces in East Timor on a high state of alert, has called for calm in the wake of Monday's attacks.

Speaking in New York Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, condemned what he called "the brutal and unspeakable attack" and said he prayed Ramos-Horta would make a full recovery.

 

Ramos-Horta, right, and Gusmao were
attacked early on Monday [AFP]
Opening a general assembly debate on climate change on Monday, Ban went on to thank Australia for promising to send more troops to help maintain security in Asia's youngest nation.

 

By chance, the current mandate of the UN mission in East Timor expires on February 26 and the Security Council is scheduled to debate its renewal on Thursday.

 

Doctors treating Ramos-Horta in the northern Australian city of Darwin say that while his condition remains serious, he is expected to make a full recovery after they operated on him for three hours to remove bullet fragments.

 

Len Notaras, general manager of Royal Darwin Hospital, said doctors removed fragments of one bullet and worked on the lower lobe of his right lung, which was badly damaged.

 

East Timor timeline


1975 - Former colonial power Portugal withdraws, Indonesia invades; two decades of resistance follow during which 200,000 Timorese are thought to have been killed

1991 - Indonesian troops fire on mourners at Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery, killing more than 100

1993 - Captured resistance leader Xanana Gusmao is jailed

1996 - Bishop Carlos Belo and resistance leader Jose Ramos-Horta share Nobel Peace Prize

1998 - Indonesia's president Suharto resigns; successor, BJ Habibie, suggests East Timor should be allowed to vote on its future

1999 - Massive turnout votes in favour of independence from Indonesia, triggering wave of violence from pro-Indonesian militia

2002 - East Timor declared independent with Gusmao as president

2006 - Clashes break out after 600 troops sacked from country's armed forces; Ramos-Horta appointed PM after predecessor, Mari Alkatiri, resigns

2007 - Ramos-Horta wins presidential election; Gusmao later appointed PM, prompting more gang violence

He said the medical team was planning more surgery for up to three gunshot wounds which would take place in stages over the next 36 hours.

 

Notaras also corrected initial reports that Ramos-Horta had been hit in the stomach.

 

He said the wounds on his stomach were caused by exploratory surgery and not by the gunshots which actually hit the president's chest and shoulder-blade.

 

The attack on Ramos-Horta's home was apparently led by Alfredo Reinado, leader of a group of rebel soldiers, who was killed in the pre-dawn raid.

 

Curfew

 

Declaring a state of emergency on Tuesday, East Timor's vice president, Vicente Guterres, said a night time curfew would be implemented and meetings and protests were banned.

 

The emergency order came as the first wave of Australian fast-reaction troops arrived in East Timor, to reinforce an existing deployment and support the international police force based there.

 

An Australian warship is also heading for East Timor to provide further support.

 

In Washington George Bush, the US president, issued a statement condemning the attacks on East Timor's president and prime minister, saying those responsible would be held accountable.

 

"I strongly condemn the violent attacks," Bush said. "Those who are responsible must know that they cannot derail democracy in Timor-Leste [East Timor], and they will be held accountable for their actions."

 

Instability

 

Australian doctors say Ramos-Horta is
still in serious condition  [AFP]
The former Portuguese colony has been rocked by waves of violence since gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002 following a UN-sponsored vote in 1999.

 

In 2006 the army tore apart along regional lines, triggering factional violence that killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their homes. Foreign peacekeepers were deployed to restore order.

 

At present there are about 1,600 international police from 40 nations providing security in Dili as part of a UN police force, backed by 1,000 Australian troops and 170 from New Zealand.

 

Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, who will be heading to Dili later this week at the request of Gusmao, said the East Timor government was "in firm control".

 

Rudd told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio that operational commanders will decide later on whether international troops should start hunting for the rebels involved in the attacks.

Source:
Agencies
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