nternational troops under fire for Timor crisis

Wednesday, 13 February, SBS

East Timor’s military chief has lashed out at international security forces in the country for failing to protect President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Rebel soldiers attacked the leaders’ homes in the early hours of Monday morning, critically wounding Mr Ramos-Horta, who was airlifted to Australia for treatment and remains in an induced coma. Mr Gusmao was unhurt.

Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak said his troops were only responsible for what went on within the perimeters of the president’s home, and that wider security was the remit of national and UN police.

“Given the big number of international forces present in Timor-Leste, in particular in Dili, how is it possible that vehicles transporting armed people have entered the city and executed an approach to the residences of the president and prime minister without having been detected?

‘No security request’

“There has been a lack of capacity shown by the international forces, who have the primary responsibility for security within Timor-Leste, to foresee, react and prevent these events,” he said, calling for a “complete international investigation” into the attacks.

But the head of the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) has defended his team’s actions, saying Mr Ramos-Horta preferred to use local personnel for his personal protection.

“It is the mission of the ISF to to support the government of Timor-Leste and the UN police. If they have made requests to us in the past, we have always been responsive,” said Brigadier General James Baker.

“Members of the ISF were not invited to provide security for the president at any time.”

Arrest warrants

East Timor’s prosecutor-general is expected to issue arrest warrants for those wanted in connection with the raids shortly, after police investigators concluded their initial inquiry.

Some 340 additional Australian troops and police arrived in East Timor on Tuesday.

Mr Ramos-Horta, who was shot three times in the shoulder and stomach, is in a serious but stable condition in hospital in Darwin.

Meanwhile, media reports suggest the Perth-based widow and children of rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who was killed in the shoot-out at Mr Ramos-Horta’s home, want to stay in Australia.

The family – Maria ‘Netty’ Reinado and her four children – has been refused asylum and are due to be sent back to East Timor, unless Immigration Minister Chris Evans intervenes.

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