Subject: AU: UN guards `scared to help shot president'; Gusmao driver tells of headlong flight from ambush

also: Gusmao driver tells of headlong flight from ambush

The Australian Thursday, February 21, 2008

UN guards `scared to help shot president'

Paul Toohey

AS Jose Ramos Horta regains consciousness and breathes without the assistance of machines in a Darwin hospital, his most senior adviser has told for the first time of his anger at armed UN guards for refusing to assist the East Timor President after he had been shot.

Paolo Remedios missed a call from Mr Ramos Horta at 6.55am on the day the President was shot. At 6.58am, Mr Ramos Horta's brother Arsenio, who was hiding inside the compound, called Mr Remedios to say he had heard his brother had been shot.

At 7.04am, the President called Mr Remedios again as he lay face down on the ground outside his compound. This time he got through. He asked to be rescued.

Mr Remedios said the President's voice was clear and firm. The adviser immediately called the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force and spoke to ``a very senior person'' asking for a helicopter and support but ``they didn't ever show up''.

Mr Remedios left home at 7.07am and came upon two UN vehicles parked several hundred metres from the compound, in earshot of the firing. He said he asked the UN officers to accompany him to the President but ``they refused to follow me''.

``There were several officers of different nationalities, sitting there, talking on their radios, afraid to go in with me,'' Mr Remedios said. ``They were cowards.''

Mr Remedios arrived at Mr Ramos Horta's villa to find the President lying face down and Arsenio holding the wound on his brother's right side. There was one F-FDTL (army) guard standing by the President, but otherwise the vicinity was quiet.

Mr Remedios, Arsenio Horta and the President's niece Ducle Horta Lemos began trying to shift the President into his vehicle. At that point, a Portuguese GNR (riot police) squad, followed by an ambulance and Timorese police, arrived. The UN police had still not come.

Mr Remedios questioned why the ISF never showed up at the scene, given its job was to provide security and stability.

Ms Horta Lemos said the President remained conscious the whole time. She travelled with him in the ambulance where he said twice: ``Why did you shoot me?''

Mr Remedios said Mr Ramos Horta was now ``in very good condition''.

``He has opened his eyes and he's conscious, moving in and out of sleep,'' he said.


The Australian Thursday, February 21, 2008

Gusmao driver tells of headlong flight from ambush

Paul Toohey

DILI -- ADOLFO Suarez dos Santos, Xanana Gusmao's driver since 2002, has no doubt the men who ambushed his boss last week had lethal intentions. The two bullets that lodged in the back of his seat proved that much.

Mr dos Santos has revealed for the first time how he got the East Timor Prime Minister out of harm's way as his motorcade came under heavy fire from four angles by ramming the vehicle in front, tearing down the hill on three tyres and later marching his boss through the jungle to safety.

Speaking to The Australian, he said at about 6.15am last Monday, one of the Prime Minister's advisers, Joaquim Fonseca, called to say that President Jose Ramos Horta's compound was under attack.

Mr Fonseca, who lives near the Ramos Horta villa east of Dili, wanted to warn Mr Gusmao, who lives in Balibar, about 10km up a winding, narrow road in the hills above the capital. But Mr Gusmao decided he would head to his Dili office regardless.

``We readied the cars to go down the hill,'' Mr dos Santos said.

``We heard the shooting. The car in front of us stopped and blocked the road for the Prime Minister's car as the guard returned fire out of his side window. The Prime Minister was trapped behind this car and couldn't get out.''

The attack was aimed mainly at the Prime Minister's car, he said. ``I was working out how to get out of there. I straightened up my car (and) rammed the vehicle in front, which was blocking my way. I hit it hard.''

Mr dos Santos said Mr Gusmao was calm. ``He was just saying, `Take off, go'. The ambushers were positioned in four points on either side of the road. When they saw no one had died inside our vehicle, they started firing low. The front left tyre was shot out as they got past the car in front.

``I could not know how many shots hit the car. Two bullets hit my back seat but didn't go all the way through. The back window was shattered. They were trying to kill me, but they couldn't do it.''

Mr dos Santos said the Prime Minister's car was not fitted with bullet-proof windows. He said Mr Gusmao also never carried a telephone. His own phone battery was too low to call out but even if he could have called, his priority was to get Mr Gusmao to Dili.

They drove the crippled Toyota Prado about 6km down to a spot called Fatunabo, where Mr dos Santos declared the 4WD could go no further. He hailed a truck loaded with people. ``I said to the driver, `Please take the Prime Minister and us to Dili','' he said.

But Mr dos Santos was still worried about the possibility of an ambush on a bend just ahead and realised they might be placing the truck passengers in danger. They asked the truck to take the bend and wait for them on the other side of a valley.

Mr Gusmao, Mr dos Santos and the armed guard walked for about 1km through the jungle as people emerged from scattered shacks and started following them. ``The Prime Minister told them to return to their homes and stay there,'' Mr dos Santos said. ``They said, `Yes, brother'.''

The third vehicle in the convoy had returned to the Prime Minister's residence, where Mr Gusmao's Australian-born wife, Kirsty Sword-Gusmao, and their three children had also been under attack.

The fourth vehicle from the convoy arrived and collected the three men from the roadside. They told the waiting truck they would not need their help and drove to Dili, where Mr Gusmao walked straight into security meetings.

Mr dos Santos did not have time to examine how many bullets Mr Gusmao's car took. The Australian briefly inspected it before being ordered away and it did not appear to be riddled. But Prosecutor-General Longuinhos Monteiro said the vehicles in the convoy took about 45 bullets, most of them aimed at Mr Gusmao's car.

He said Major-General Alfredo Reinado's second-in-command, Lieutenant Gastao Salsinha, who has strongly denied any involvement, had been positively identified in the events at Balibar.

Mr Monteiro said minutes before the ambush, Lieutenant Salsinha and another rebel had approached Mr Gusmao's residence and pointed their weapons at the police guard. Mr Monteiro said the guard said to them: ``If you take my weapon, you must kill me.''

``They asked, `Where is the Prime Minister?' They said the Prime Minister had already left. Salsinha seemed to want to go in the back of the house, asking where the Prime Minister's wife and kids were. Suddenly, he turned back and fired once in the air. What did this mean? It was a signal to the men below to ambush.

``Our conclusion is that if Salsinha had found the Prime Minister in the house, he would have taken him alive. But because he had already left, the decision was to kill him.''

Mr Monteiro also said 11 men, including Reinado, had gone to Mr Ramos Horta's house -- seven with rifles, one with a pistol and three who were possibly drivers. He said there was evidence of 75 shots being fired in the presidential compound but they were ``still counting''.

Reinado was killed in the exchange, which left Mr Ramos Horta fighting for his life in a Darwin hospital.

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