Subject: East Timor rebel leader delays surrender

also E Timor hunts rebel soldier

ABC News

East Timor rebel leader delays surrender

By Stephanie March in Dili

13 March 2008

East Timor's prosecutor-general has revealed that rebel leader Gastao Salsinha was ready to surrender to authorities last Monday, but now wants to wait until President Jose Ramos-Horta returns from recuperating in Australia.

Mr Ramos-Horta is in a hospital in Darwin recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered in an apparent assassination attempt last month.

After four days of dialogue with Gastao Salsinha, prosecutor-general Longuinhos Monteiro said the rebel leader, along with 29 of his men, had agreed to surrender peacefully.

But the ABC understands the rebel leader changed his mind on Sunday and has since severed all contact with the prosecutor-general.

"I got another letter from him, that says he wants to postpone until President Ramos-Horta is coming back from Darwin," Mr Salsinha said.

"I don't know why, but maybe he is being influenced by some third party. It's possible."

Meanwhile, President Ramos-Horta has named the rebel soldier, Marcelo Caetano, as the man who shot and seriously wounded him in last month's attack at his home.

He is now believed to be in hiding with other rebels wanted for the near-simultaneous attacks on Mr Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who was unhurt.

More than 450 of East Timor's military, with support from Australian and New Zealand troops, are deployed across the country monitoring the movements of the rebels.

E Timor hunts rebel soldier

By Jill Jolliffe in Dili, 13 March 2008 - 9:06AM

The Canberra Times

East Timor's army has begun operations in the western Ermera district to capture Gastao Salsinha, the fugitive ex-soldier accused of leading an attack on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on February 11.

More than 500 men from an army and police task force moved into the town of Ermera on Monday. Local sources said they used megaphones to warn residents they would begin operations to capture Salsinha if he did not surrender by 5pm.

Prosecutor-General Longuinhos Monteiro spent four days with Salsinha last week proposing terms for his peaceful surrender. He returned to Dili on Friday and announced that he had failed to convince Salsinha.

Army commander Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak later said Salsinha had run out of time and that the army would hunt him down. Salsinha is armed and currently commands around 30 men, thought to include former military policeman Marcello Caetano, alleged to have shot and critically wounded President Jose Ramos Horta in an attack coordinated with that on the Prime Minister.

The group may have split up in recent days, as last reports placed Caetano in Atsabe, towards the Indonesian (West) Timorese border.

Ermera residents sent SMS messages to Dili throughout Monday night describing troop movements. By the early hours of Tuesday Salsinha was said to be closely surrounded by three companies of soldiers.

An international specialist who asked not to be named described the situation as a "Mexican stand-off ... They're all frozen in the headlights, with no-one knowing where to move next".

There are fears that if Salsinha resists and shots are exchanged a new wave of violence could be sparked in East Timor.

According to former parliamentarian Leandro Isaac, who spent months with the rebel soldiers in 2007, Salsinha is a "bishop" of the pagan church of Colimau 2000, which has followers among poor people throughout western regions.

Founded in the years of resistance to the Indonesian occupation, it was one of many secret sects formed to keep nationalist principles alive among isolated units of the resistance army.

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