Militia link to Timor attack suspects

The Age

Lindsay Murdoch

April 20, 2008

THREE rebels involved in attacks on East Timor’s top two political leaders have been arrested in Indonesian West Timor where they were staying at the invitation of Joao Tavares, a notorious former pro-Jakarta militia commander.

Indonesian security forces traced the men to Mr Tavares, who was described by United Nations war crimes prosecutors as the supreme militia commander in East Timor in 1999 when 1500 people were killed and 70% of the country’s infrastructure destroyed.

The arrests came after Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told his East Timor counterpart, Jose Ramos Horta, on the phone last week that Jakarta would crack down on any support for the rebels coming from Indonesia.

The investigation into the attacks is focusing on contacts rebel leader Alfredo Reinado ­ who led the attack on the two leaders and was killed during it ­ had with people in Indonesia, including a Timorese-born Jakarta gangster, Hercules Rozario Marcal. Reinado’s mobile telephone listed 21 Indonesian contact numbers, including one for “Hercul”.

The two men spoke together by phone on January 19, three weeks before the attempted assassination of Mr Ramos Horta and the attempted abduction of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

On January 21, Marcal visited Dili with an Indonesian business delegation. Investigators in Dili are trying to confirm information that Reinado also travelled to the Indonesian island of Batam in May last year under the assumed name Simlisio De La Crus with his Timorese-born Australian lover, Angelita Pires, and Marcal.

Investigators see the arrests in West Timor, particularly that of Ismail Moniz Soares, also known as Asanco, as an important breakthrough. They want to question Soares about why he rang a security guard at Mr Ramos Horta’s house on Dili’s outskirts at 6.04 on the morning of the attacks, minutes before Reinado and nine other rebels stormed the house.

The call indicates that Mr Ramos Horta may have been betrayed by at least one of his guards.

Soares is alleged to have been among the rebels who ambushed Mr Gusmao, who escaped unhurt into jungle near his home. The other rebels arrested, Jose Gomez and Egidio Carvalho, were at Mr Ramos Horta’s house when the President was shot and seriously wounded and Reinado was shot dead.

Mr Ramos Horta has stressed in his public comments that neither the Indonesian Government nor the Indonesian military as an institution are implicated in providing support for Reinado.

But announcing the arrests in Jakarta late on Friday, President Yudhoyono said he asked East Timor “not to issue statements which may seem like Indonesia is involved (in the attacks) because it can disrupt the good relationship”. Indonesia swiftly supplied East Timor with information about calls Reinado made to Indonesian numbers.

Investigators are still waiting for information from Australia about numbers Reinado called before the attacks.

Australian Federal Police are also investigating the source of $800,000 in a Commonwealth Bank account that Reinado accessed through ATMs in Dili. He had US$30,000 ($A32,000) on his body when he was killed. The account was opened by Ms Pires, who is under a court order in Dili to report regularly to police as the investigation continues.

Ms Pires, who is unemployed, has denied any prior knowledge of the attacks.

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