East Timor army kills rebel supporter in operation

Sun Apr 6, 2008 4:23pm IST

By Tito Belo

DILI (Reuters) – East Timor’s security forces have shot dead a civilian believed to be a supporter of rebel soldiers involved in an assassination attempt on the country’s president, the military said on Sunday.

The killing on Saturday marks the first casualty since a joint military-police operation was launched following a rebel attack on President Jose Ramos-Horta at his home on Feb. 11 in which he was seriously wounded.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unhurt in a separate attack the same morning.

The man who was shot dead by security forces on Saturday after he attacked a soldier with a machete in Meliana district, 85 km west of the capital, Dili, said army operations chief Filomeno Paixao. In a separate development, two rebel soldiers surrendered to the military on Saturday, Paixao said.

East Timor, Asia’s youngest nation, has been unable to achieve stability since hard-won independence in 2002.

The army tore apart along regional lines in 2006, when about 600 soldiers were sacked, triggering factional violence that killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their homes.

Foreign troops were sent to restore order in the former Portuguese colony of about one million people, which gained full independence from Indonesia after a U.N.-sponsored vote in 1999 that was marred by violence.

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