The Moment – Man on the Run
Time Magazine [South Pacific Ed.]
Issue Dated August 27, 2007
By Rory Callinan
East Timorese rebel Alfredo Reinado lashes out against Australian troops.
With supporters of the ousted Fretilin party rampaging through the streets, setting homes ablaze and attacking U.N. vehicles, the most urgent priority for East Timor’s new government is restoring stability. Yet while the authorities focus on the Fretilin violence, another potential threat continues to lurk in the country’s central mountains.
After hunting former military police commander Alfredo Reinado for months, the Australian-led International Stabilization Force was recently called off the chase by President José Ramos-Horta. But speaking with TIME near his mountain redoubt, Reinado says the change of government has not changed his stance. He is still at war, he says, with Dili and with the ISF.
Clad in Australian Army battledress, toting a machine gun and surrounded by armed bodyguards, Reinado says he will never lay down his weapons: “Why? Who does this [gun] belong to? It doesn’t belong to Xanana [Gusmão, the new Prime Minister] or Horta. It belongs to the people of this country.” Besides, he adds, many others have illicit weapons. “What do they do about those people?”
Reinado’s original beef was with the Fretilin government, which he accused of ill-treating people from the country’s west. Now he says he has a new score to settle, arising from a March raid by dozens of Australian special-forces troops on his former hideout at Same, 110 km south of Dili. Reinado, who escaped the raid along with most of his men, claims the troops shot one of his armed supporters dead while he was asking for a parley, killed two unarmed civilians, and broke the necks of two wounded men. “The way they do operation is like we are animals or enemy,” he says. “They come to teach us about the Geneva Convention. They are the ones that don’t respect it.”
The Australian Defence Force says it is investigating Reinado’s claims but will not comment on them until the after-action report on the Same raid is complete. Reinado, who believes he is still being hunted, wants the Australians to leave East Timor. “Australia cannot be an impartial force in this country,” he says. If ISF troops attack his men, he warns, they will fight back. “Then it will be worse,” he says. “Day after day [the Australians] will have loss of life.”