Subject: SMH: Rebel rolls over and agrees to reveal all
also AU: Key Timor rebel surrenders
Sydney Morning Herald
Rebel rolls over and agrees to reveal all
Lindsay Murdoch in Darwin
March 3, 2008
A REBEL commander who was at the home of East Timor's President, Jose Ramos-Horta, the morning he was shot and seriously wounded has surrendered.
Amaro Da Costa, also known as "Susar", has agreed to tell all he knows in the biggest breakthrough so far in the investigation into the February 11 attacks in the capital, Dili, military sources revealed yesterday.
Da Costa, a former police commando, was a confidant of the rebel leader Alfredo Reinado who was killed during a gunfight at Mr Ramos-Horta's house.
His surprise surrender in a village near the town of Alieu, 120 kilometres south of Dili, early yesterday has fuelled speculation about the imminent surrender of other members of Reinado's gang who have been hunted in the mountains since the attacks.
The gang's leader, Gastao Salsinha, has been negotiating his surrender to the Catholic Church, military sources in Dili told the Herald.
The Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, who was also targeted in the attacks, has approved the church's role, saying he does not want the rebels killed during a hunt led by Australian SAS troops.
Mr Gusmao made a new appeal yesterday for the remainder of the rebels to surrender. "I am asking you to co-operate with the joint command so that people can live in tranquillity," he said from the government palace.
Filomeno Paixao, the head of the joint Timorese command established to hunt the rebels, confirmed after parading Da Costa at a press conference in Dili that negotiators have had direct contact with Salsinha.
"We hope he will surrender soon," Mr Paixao told journalists.
The surrender of Da Costa, the most feared of Reinado's men, follows the surrender of six of the rebels last week.
Salsinha, who took command of the gang after Reinado's death, appears left with little option but to surrender despite telling journalists he would never do so.
His support base has crumbled since the attacks; more than 500 former soldiers he once led have arrived in Dili in the lead-up to negotiations aimed at settling their grievances that date back to 2006, when 600 were sacked after they had gone on strike. The sackings sparked violent upheaval that left 37 people dead and forced 150,000 from their homes.
Mr Gusmao's government has indicated it is willing to give the former soldiers three years' salary or else reinstate them in the army.
Investigators in Dili told the Herald Da Costa's testimony will be a key to revealing Reinado's motive for leading a group of armed men to Mr Ramos-Horta's house on February 11. Security guards at the house have identified Da Costa, in his early 40s, as being there with Reinado.
Da Costa had been at Reinado's side since May 2006 when, according to a United Nations inquiry, Reinado and 11 of his men became involved in a gunbattle with Timorese soldiers that left five people dead and 11 wounded.
He was with Reinado in March last year during a botched attack by the SAS in the town of Same in the central mountains, and when Reinado led a mass escape from Dili's main jail in August 2006.
He walked calmly into Turiscai village at 2am yesterday and handed two high-powered weapons to Timorese security forces who had been hunting him.
Meanwhile, Mr Ramos-Horta continues to recover in Royal Darwin Hospital where he was visited at the weekend by the interim president, Fernando de Araujo. Relatives say he can sit up and is eager to return to work.
Key Timor rebel surrenders
Paul Toohey | March 03, 2008
THE East Timorese rebel leader widely suspected of being the man who shot President Jose Ramos Horta has surrendered, handing in his gun as Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao looked on.
Amaro Suarez da Costa is better known as Susar. The name means "difficult" in Tetum and there are two interpretations of what his chosen resistance code name meant in his case: either difficult to get along with or difficult to kill.
Susar was one of 17 people wanted in connection with the near-simultaneous attacks on Mr Ramos Horta and Mr Gusmao on the morning of February 11.
It is known he was involved in the attack on the President's compound and it is widely suggested in East Timor that he shot the President.
He took on the deputy leadership role among the rebels after Major Alfredo Reinado was shot dead in the attacks and - after new rebel leader Lieutenant Gastoa Salsinha - had become East Timor's most wanted.
Salsinha is still to hand himself in after being accused of ordering the attack on Gusmao.
Susar handed himself in to authorities in the western mountain town of Turiscai on Saturday night.
It is understood the surrender was negotiated between Susar and his intermediaries, the army hierarchy and Prosecutor-General Longuinhos Monteiro.
At yesterday's orchestrated photo-opportunity, designed to send a clear message to the rebels, Mr Gusmao pleaded with them to hand themselves in.
"I am asking you to co-operate with the joint command so that people can live in tranquillity," he said.
Susar, who was often seen standing close behind Reinado when he met the media, was a Falintil, or armed resistance, leader. He was the platoon commander who ran Region 2, the central-south of East Timor, from 1992-99 during the Indonesian occupation.
In 1998 he led a successful attack on a TNI (Indonesian army) outpost in Alas, near the south coast, contrary to the orders of Mr Gusmao that no such attacks should be undertaken.
In 2001, admired for his competence with weapons, he joined the police and became a personal bodyguard to former police commissioner Paolo Martins.
Susar stayed with Martins until 2006, when he deserted along with hundreds of others after peacefully protesting petitioners, seeking better conditions within the army, were fired upon by F-FDTL soldiers. His anger was reinforced when the F-FDTL fired on unarmed police seeking sanctuary in the UN compound.
Susar joined Reinado in Maubisse, south of Dili, in May 2006, and was involved in a clash with F-FDTL on the eastern outskirts of Dili in that same month, which led to the arrest of Reinado and others for murder. But not Susar.
He returned to his old stomping ground of Same in the south, from where he helped organised the August 30, 2006 mass escape of Reinado and 15 others from Dili's Becora prison by providing the getaway cars.
Susar was aligned with Reinado, but enjoyed the independence he had experienced as a Falintil platoon commander.
A source close to Susar said: "It's all about deals in this country.
"And a guy like Susar, by surrendering, can cut a deal. There are no rules in this country. Even for shooting a President."
He was involved in an incident early last year whereby he and others managed to relieve border police of their weapons.
He was with Reinado in Same when SAS troopers surrounded their hilltop position and killed five of the rebel band.
Susar, with his intimate local knowledge of Same, is thought to have led Reinado and others out of what appeared to be an impossible position.
"He remained on and again off with Reinado from March 2007 until now," said a source intimate with Susar. "And he is almost certainly the guy who was at Ramos Horta's place of February 11 and there is very strong suspicion, and this comes from Ramos Horta's guards, that he actually shot Ramos Horta."
A mythology has grown about Susar in East Timor which holds that he was a sniper or sharpshooter protected by magic, but The Australian's source questioned the sniper angle.
In surrendering, said the source: "He is trying to save his life.
"He's got in the back of his head he can cut some deal down the track. And he'd rather cut a deal than eat a bullet.
"It's very clear since February 11 the country has no stomach for these guys any more. People are very ashamed of what happened to the President.
"People like Susar are no longer finding much in the way of help among their old supporters."
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