Subject: Timor Rebels Fire Shots Near UN Patrol: Official

Timor Rebels Fire Shots Near UN Patrol: Official -AFP

DILI (AFP)--A United Nations police patrol in East Timor was met with warning shots after stumbling on a group of fugitive rebels that have been on the run since 2006 unrest in the young nation, a police spokesman said.

A patrol car ran into the rebels while inspecting roads for damage following a strong storm in the country's Ermera district, International Stabilisation Force (ISF) spokesman Brigadier General James Baker told reporters.

Baker said the rebels are part of a group of deserters who left East Timor's armed forces in 2006 under the leadership of Major Alfredo Reinado, who remains in hiding.

"In Ermera this afternoon... approximately five to eight warning shots were fired by someone in Reinado's party. (They) tried to shoot in what was seen as a reckless action," he said.

"The ISF did not return fire but immediately withdrew to Gleno," Baker said referring to the district capital.

He said that the ISF wasn't engaged in any operation against Reinado.

"Reinado is a fugitive of the Timorese criminal justice system, he has threatened the safety of Australian troops," he said.

"This incident will be fully investigated in cooperation with the UN and the Timor Leste authorities," Baker said.

Factional fighting left at least 37 people dead in the April and May 2006 rebellion, and forced international peacekeepers to be despatched to restore calm.

Australia has a large contingent of peacekeepers and police patrolling in East Timor.

Reinado was arrested on charges of illegal weapons distribution, desertion and attempted murder following the unrest, but later escaped from jail. He last met with government officials in August.

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