|Subject: E. Timor Reports: Army Chief
Blames Attack On Australians' Failings; Rebel's Death A Chance for Unity
- SMH: Army chief blames attack on Australians' failings
- AAP: Aust troops could have nothing to prevent attack: Baker
- SMH: Ramos-Horta braved rebels, with niece trapped
- SMH: After the frantic calls, PM's wife looks to future
The Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Army chief blames attack on Australians' failings
Lindsay Murdoch in Dili
THE chief of East Timor's army has lashed out at Australian-led forces for failing to detect Monday's plot to assassinate the country's two top political leaders, as 340 additional Australian personnel arrived late yesterday in the capital, Dili.
Taur Matan Ruak told journalists he was "staggered" the international forces had such "lack of capacity" to prevent armed men entering the city and launching attacks against the President, Jose Ramos-Horta, and the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao.
Mr Ramos-Horta was seriously wounded in the attacks, which have plunged East Timor into renewed crisis.
"There has been a lack of capacity shown by the international forces who have primary responsibility for the security within East Timor to foresee, react and prevent these events," Brigadier-General Ruak said.
East Timor's former prime minister Mari Alkatiri also criticised the inability of the security forces to prevent gunmen arriving in Dili with high-powered weapons.
"There is no need to send more troops to solve the problem," said Mr Alkatiri, the head of Fretilin, the country's largest political party. "There are already enough troops here if they do their jobs."
At least four vehicles carrying more than 20 armed men entered Dili early on Monday to carry out the attacks which were led by the renegade military officer Alfredo Reinado, who was killed.
Three planes carrying the additional Australian combat troops and 70 Australian police landed in Dili as East Timorese leaders decided to ask for foreign help to investigate the attacks.
General Ruak, who has had a stormy relationship with Australian military commanders in East Timor, also called for an international-led investigation into the attacks which he said had "shocked" the country.
"It is imperative that the respective inherent responsibilities of all security forces within Timor-Leste [East Timor] be determined," said General Ruak. He indicated he wants the investigation to include the status of his army and the Timorese police.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Jose Luis Guterres, told the Herald his Government had decided to set up a commission of inquiry into the attacks which he said were carried out to "destroy the institutions of state and create conditions for early elections".
Mr Guterres said the decision to ask for foreign help to conduct the inquiry was made because of "doubts surrounding the exact circumstances of the attacks".
Some political figures in Dili believe Reinado, the rebel leader killed during an attack on Mr Ramos-Horta's home, was part of a wider political conspiracy in the troubled country of 1 million people.
Mr Alkatiri told the Herald he could not understand what motivated Reinado's gunmen to attack Mr Ramos-Horta, the only person in a position of power in East Timor who had long argued Reinado be treated leniently, despite facing charges of murder and rebellion. "This is very, very strange," Mr Alkatiri said.
Mr Alkatiri said he believed he was the third target of Monday's coup attempt. Security guards at his home in Dili deserted their posts on Monday morning.
The additional Australian troops arrived in Dili as the Government imposed a curfew, part of a 48-hour state of emergency. They join 750 Australian and 180 New Zealand troops serving in East Timor's International Stabilisation Force, that will led the hunt for Reinado's men. Australian-led forces botched an attack on Reinado's base in the town of Same in March last year.
A preliminary report into Mr Ramos-Horta's shooting will be handed to East Timor's prosecutor general today and he will decide whether to issue arrest warrants, a United Nations spokesman, Finn Reske-Nielsen, said.
Dili remained calm yesterday, despite fears of renewed violence.
Aust troops could have nothing to prevent attack: Baker
By Karen Michelmore
DILI, Feb 12 AAP - The head of Australia's forces in East Timor says there was nothing his troops could have done to prevent yesterday's attempted assassination of President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
Commander James Baker said the attacks, which left Ramos-Horta seriously injured, shocked everyone.
"It came as a surprise to us all," Brigadier Baker told reporters.
"Unless we had information that led to the time and the place it would occur, there wasn't a great deal that could have been done about it."
Earlier, East Timor's army chief Taur Matan Ruak accused the international security forces in his country for failing to prevent the attacks, and called for an international investigation to determine the full facts.
"Given the high number of international forces present in East Timor, in particular within the capital, how is it possible that vehicles transporting armed people have entered the city and executed an approach to the residences of the president ... and the prime minster without having been detected?" he said.
"There has been a lack of capacity shown by the international forces, who have primary responsibility for the security within East Timor, to foresee, react and prevent these events."
Ruak also claimed there was "no immediate operation undertaken to detain" the rebels involved in yesterday's attack, in which rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was shot dead by Ramos-Horta's security guards.
Up to 200 extra troops and 70 Australian Federal Police agents today began arriving in Dili aboard RAAF Hercules aircraft to boost the international forces.
The ANZAC class frigate HMAS Perth arrived in Dili before dawn today.
Investigators were today shifting through evidence in the case, and expected to have a preliminary report completed by tomorrow morning, paving the way for potential arrests.
United Nations spokesperson Finn Reske-Nielsen said investigators had interviewed 11 people over the attack on Ramos-Horta, but no arrests had yet been made.
He said the investigation had been underway since yesterday morning, and a preliminary report would be handed to East Timor's prosecutor-general tomorrow.
"Based upon the information in that report, the prosecutor general may issue arrest warrants for a number of individuals," Reske-Nielsen told reporters.
"Once the warrants of arrest have been issued, the security forces will be responsible for executing the warrants.
"The ISF will provide back up response if there's a need for a hard arrest."
Brigadier Baker branded the actions of Reinado's men "criminal" and said it was important they be brought to justice.
However, he added it was unfortunate Reinado was killed in yesterday's attack.
"The death of anyone is not a good thing," he said.
"I think a better result would have been to proceed through the process of negotiation to allow Reinado to submit peacefully and face the justice system."
Reinado was among 600 mutinous soldiers dismissed by East Timor's government in 2006, triggering violence in which 37 people were killed and more than 150,000 people forced from their homes.
He was arrested and charged but escaped from prison later that year.
Australian forces in East Timor last year botched a bid to arrest him.
Ramos-Horta later waived an arrest warrant for the rebel leader, deciding instead to seek face to face talks.
The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Ramos-Horta braved rebels, with niece trapped
Lindsay Murdoch in Dili
THE rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was shot dead at least 30 minutes before East Timor's President, Jose Ramos-Horta, was attacked and gravely wounded outside his house, military sources in Dili say.
Mr Ramos-Horta was shot twice by Reinado's men who were fleeing the house after a gun battle with security guards, the sources say. Reinado was lying dead inside at the time.
As United Nations police begin investigating the attack, which has plunged East Timor into renewed crisis, it is becoming clear that Mr Ramos-Horta showed enormous courage when he walked back to the house after being told by at least two people it was under attack after dawn on Monday.
One of them, sources say, was his 17-year-old niece and part-time maid, Lily, who called him on his mobile phone as he walked along the beach with two security guards. There is speculation he returned to the house despite the obvious danger because he was worried about Lily's safety. She was inside the house when Reinado and his men disarmed security guards at the gate and stormed inside, kicking down doors to gain entry to rooms.
Sources say the gunmen were inside the house for minutes, apparently waiting for Mr Ramos-Horta to return from his walk.
But a second team of Mr Ramos-Horta's guards arrived an hour before the usual time that they relieve the night shift and saw Reinado in the house. One of them shot him in the face during a 20-minute gun battle.
The other person to tell Mr Ramos-Horta about the attack was a foreign diplomat who does not want to be identified. He was jogging on the beach when he heard and saw the gun battle erupt at the house. He thought it might have been a military
exercise and kept jogging before coming across Mr Ramos-Horta further along the beach. He told the President about the attack on his house and offered him a lift in his car.
Mr Ramos-Horta declined, saying it would be "OK".
The President, who had met Reinado several times and believed he could be convinced to surrender, inexplicably decided to return to the thatched-roof house he built on the side of a hill above Dili Harbour.
Although he was flanked by two security guards, Reinado's men opened fire on him as he approached the house after walking up a steep incline from the beach, military sources say.
One of the guards pushed in front of Mr Ramos-Horta to become a human shield. The guard was shot and was in a serious condition in hospital last night.
Mr Ramos-Horta, who was shot three times, will remain in an induced coma in the intensive care ward of Royal Darwin Hospital at least until Thursday. His condition remains serious but stable.
While stressing Dr Ramos-Horta was "not out of the woods" yet, the hospital's general manager, Dr Len Notaras, said he was expected to make a full recovery.
Sources say that as Reinado's men fled in a vehicle, Mr Ramos-Horta staggered inside, bleeding profusely.
But he still managed to make at least two phone calls, one to the East Timor army chief, Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak. "I need your help," he told him.
How long Mr Ramos-Horta waited for medical treatment is a matter of intense controversy in East Timor.
But the UN yesterday denied reports that he lay bleeding for 30 minutes or even longer before receiving basic medical treatment.
The UN's spokeswoman in Dili, Allison Cooper, said two UN police units were sent to Mr Ramos-Horta's house within a minute of receiving a call about the attack at 6.59am. The units arrived at 7.18am, she said. The drive usually takes 15 minutes.
Police took a further three minutes to find Mr Ramos-Horta, Ms Cooper said. The President was in an ambulance on his way to hospital two minutes later.
The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, February 13, 2008
After the frantic calls, PM's wife looks to future
HER husband was the subject of a bloody assassination attempt, her family is surrounded by armed soldiers, and her close friend is lying in a Darwin hospital bed battling for his life.
But with quiet determination, Kirsty Sword Gusmao yesterday declared her unwavering belief in the resilience of the people of East Timor and the fledgling nation's ability to survive.
"The love of peace of the East Timorese people will overcome this - I am absolutely convinced of that," the Melbourne-born wife of Xanana Gusmao said.
"This is a blow to the morale of the East Timorese - people are hurt, ashamed, upset ... but I believe this is another hill that we have to overcome and that we will overcome."
Ms Gusmao was fishing her three young sons out of the bath in preparation for school when rebel soldiers surrounded the family's home high in the hills above Dili.
"When Xanana heard the news about Ramos he immediately left for Dili," Ms Gusmao said.
"Shortly after he left some members of my personal protection team came and told me that our home was surrounded. We went into a state of panic. The kids were still preparing for school - they'd just popped out of the bath and I just had to get them into some clothes."
Ms Gusmao made a frantic call to her husband's car at the exact moment that his motorcade was ambushed. "All I could hear was mayhem," she said. "There were people screaming back and forth - I couldn't make out what was going on. I managed to get the message through that our house was being surrounded and then the line went dead."
Terrified, Ms Gusmao grabbed her children and crawled under a bed - unable to tell them what had happened to their father or what was happening outside.
"In that situation you expected a hail of bullets coming through the window at any minute - we had members of our close personal protection team there to whom I am eternally grateful. But I just felt incredibly vulnerable."
Despite her ordeal, including the hours spent wondering whether her husband had survived, Ms Gusmao was optimistic yesterday.
"The next 24 to 48 hours after the killing of Major Reinado will be crucial," she said.
"I think people will have seen it as a cowardly and brutal act against East Timor's young democracy. There will continue to be some fanatics who believe that he actually stood for something but I think ultimately this will result in his support diminishing. Xanana and Ramos are seen as the fathers of freedom and democracy in this country. I believe that most people condemn them [the fanatics]."
Ms Gusmao, who has been a tireless advocate for the plight of women in her adopted land, said she would continue to work in the open.
"We have hardly lost a day in our work and we intend to continue tomorrow with the projects we are working on," she said.
"I'm confident about East Timor's future. There has been and will continue to be a positive mood of hope."
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