Subject: FBI team to help East Timor with attack probe

also The Age: I've been framed, says Timor plot accused

FBI team to help East Timor with attack probe

Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:01pm GMT

By Tito Belo

DILI (Reuters) - An FBI team arrived in East Timor on Wednesday to help with the investigation into the double assassination attempt on the young nation's leaders, the U.S. ambassador to East Timor said.

East Timor's president, Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, was shot and critically wounded at his home in Dili last week in an attack by rebel soldiers while Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped injury in another shooting.

Both attacks are believed to have been carried out by followers of rebel leader Alfredo Reinado who was killed during the attack on Ramos-Horta.

Ramos-Horta, 58, is recovering in hospital in Australia after being shot twice in the back and chest.

Arrest warrants have been issued against 17 people suspected of being involved in the attack while East Timor's police and international troops have been hunting for rebels hiding in hills near Dili.

"They are here to work directly for the prosecutor-general," U.S. Ambassador Hans George Klemm said after introducing the three FBI officers to the acting president, Fernando de Araujo.

"They are actually here for an unlimited period of time and we are very committed in trying to assist the prosecutor-general to uncover all the facts of the case and develop a strong case to bring to the prosecutor as soon as possible.

"They are highly trained individuals in all areas of criminal investigations and forensics but also well-trained in all aspects of bringing the cases to prosecutions."

Earlier, Australia's top military commander urged rebel East Timorese soldiers to surrender as Australian commandos continued hunting them down.

"We would like to bring these people to justice peacefully without confrontation, and I encourage any of Reinado's former followers to surrender to the authorities in East Timor," Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston told a hearing before Australia's upper house Senate.

Reinado deserted the army in May 2006 to join about 600 former soldiers sacked earlier that year amid claims they were discriminated against because they were from the western part of East Timor.

International peacekeeping forces were sent to the resource-rich but largely impoverished country to halt ethnic fighting and clashes between rival police and the military which broke out following the rebellion.

East Timor gained full independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a U.N.-sponsored vote in 1999 marred by violence. Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975. Many thousands of East Timorese died during the brutal occupation that followed.

(Additional reporting by Rob Taylor in Canberra; Writing by Sugita Katyal; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)


The Age

I've been framed, says Timor plot accused

Lindsay Murdoch, Dili

February 19, 2008 - 6:30PM

Angelita Pires, the Australian woman at the centre of investigations into the East Timor gun attacks, says she is innocent and has been framed.

"My willingness to co-operate is proof I have nothing to hide," Ms Pires said yesterday after a judge allowed her to go home, for the moment.

Ms Pires, 38, admits she had lunch with rebel leader Alfredo Reinado hours before he led a group of masked and heavily armed men to the house of the country's popular President Jose Ramos Horta, prompting a gunfight in which Reinado was killed.

She says Reinado, a close friend, gave her his two dogs to care for.

But Ms Pires, a politically well-connected figure in Dili, insisted she was not involved in any plot to destabilise the country.

"I had no knowledge whatsoever," she said.

Speaking from her house in a beachside Dili suburb, Ms Pires said she was "shocked" when United Nations police detained her last Sunday and prosecutors later declared her an official suspect for attempting to murder Dr Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. Prosecutors also declared her a suspect for possible crimes against the state.

Fighting back tears, Ms Pires said the funeral of Reinado, a cult-hero figure in East Timor, and her detention had been emotionally and physically exhausting.

"I'm innocent, so I want to be strong for this," she said.

Ms Pires' friendship with Reinado is no secret in Dili.

But she is also a long-time friend of Mr Gusmao, who escaped unharmed during Monday's attacks.

Ms Pires, who was born in East Timor but grew up in Darwin, often went into the mountains to visit Reinado during his 17 months on the run and acted as a go-between in negotiations to try to get him to surrender.

East Timor's media often described her as Reinado's legal adviser. She studied law in Australia but never graduated. Ms Pires said that during her detention at a police station she was treated well.

"I want people in general to know that I am well ... to tell my family in Australia that I miss them and love them," she said.

Prosecutors say that Ms Pires will face further questioning in court hearings.

They have described her detention and questioning as a breakthrough in investigations into the attacks that plunged the country of one million mostly impoverished people into renewed crisis.

Polie have not seized her Australian and East Timorese passports.

She was booked to fly from Dili to Darwin, where her mother lives, on Monday, only hours before her detention.

Meanwhile, Mr Gusmao has made an emotional appeal on national television for the gunmen responsible for the attacks to surrender.

"Loving your lives, surrender yourselves," Mr Gusmao said.

"Otherwise the operation (to hunt you) will continue," he said.

Australia's elite SAS commandos are leading a hunt in East Timor's mountains for about 20 heavily armed former soldiers and police led by an ex-army officer Gastao Salsinha, who have vowed never to surrender. Ms Gusmao also said his government would not tolerate people circulating allegations against him, including political groups.

Analysts in Dili and Fretilin, the former ruling party, have expressed serious concern about a decision by the East Timor Government to merge the nation's police and army to join the hunt for the gunmen.

They said this would hinder the SAS-led operation, possibly making it more dangerous. They also said the move could reignite conflict between the police and army just two years after violence erupted between the two forces, leaving 37 dead and forcing 150,000 people to flee their homes.

"The last thing the Australians want is more men running around with high powered weapons as they try to do their job," said a military analyst in Dili, who declined to be named.

Dr Ramos Horta is recovering from serious gunshot wounds in the Royal Darwin Hospital.

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