Subject: AGE: War declared on rebel officer

The Age

War declared on rebel officer

Lindsay Murdoch, Dili

February 27, 2007

EAST Timor's President Xanana Gusmao last night declared war on fugitive rebel leader Alfredo Reinado after Reinado seized 25 high-powered weapons in raids on police border posts.

Mr Gusmao told Timorese in a televised address that Reinado was no longer a "hero" of the people and that he had asked Australian and other international forces in East Timor to mount an operation to capture him and his men.

"There is no solution any more for Alfredo because Alfredo chose this path," Mr Gusmao said. The President was believed to have been a strong behind-the-scenes defender of Reinado, a former head of East Timor's military police.

Reinado has vowed to kill Australian soldiers if they try to arrest him and his dozen-strong group of soldiers. He seized the weapons and a large amount of ammunition when he and nine armed men raided border posts on Sunday night.

UN officials said this month that Reinado was a serious threat to the peaceful conduct of presidential elections on April 9 and general elections by mid-year.

Reinado said by telephone from an undisclosed location yesterday that he did not use force to obtain the weapons at the posts in the Maliana and Suai districts. Referring to the border police, he said: "I asked them and they gave (the weapons) to me." When he was asked why he wanted the weapons, the telephone went dead.

Reinado, who led a mass escape from Dili's main jail in August, is wanted on murder and rebellion charges. At least one of the police at the raided posts deserted to join his group, a military source said.

The border was closed yesterday, apparently on the order of East Timor's interim Prime Minister, Jose Ramos Horta. He told Parliament that Reinado's actions were criminal and that the Government would no longer negotiate with him.

The Australian Government warned yesterday of an "increasing likelihood that Australians and Australian interests" in Dili may be targeted after an Australian soldier shot two Timorese at a refugee camp on Friday. One died at the scene and the other in hospital.

About 50 heavily armed UN police yesterday blocked 3000 people walking with the men's bodies to the fortified Australian embassy building.

Opposition MP Antonio Ximenes told The Age that people at the camp near Dili's airport disputed the Australian Defence Force's claim that the men were shot after attacking the soldier with steel arrows.

Mr Ximenes, who is head of the Christian Democratic Party, said the ADF must explain how it could say the soldier had acted in self-defence before any investigation had been carried out.

Brigadier Malcolm Rerden, the commander of Australia's 800-strong contingent in Dili, was not available for comment. Tensions in the capital have been exacerbated by a shortage of rice.

A NSW coroner hearing an inquest on one of five Australian journalists killed in East Timor more than 30 years ago has agreed to hear some evidence in secret.

Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch yesterday heard a Federal Government application that future evidence from Commonwealth officials, and subpoenaed documents from the Defence Signals Directorate, be heard in camera at the inquest on cameraman Brian Peters.

With AAP

Back to February menu

January 2007 menu  
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu