East Timor rebel leader ‘to surrender’

From correspondents in Dili

April 28, 2008 07:18pm

Article from: AAP

EAST Timor’s fugitive rebel leader is under heavy guard at a house in the country’s mountainous interior and will be trucked to the capital tomorrow to formally surrender. Gastao Salsinha, wanted over February’s attacks on East Timor’s top leaders, and 11 of his rebels will formally hand themselves in in Dili, a top official said.

“Tomorrow he will go to Dili, tomorrow will be the big day,” said Lt Col Filomeno Paixao, who is leading a joint police and military operation to find the rebels.

“He is in our control.”

Lt Col Paixao said Salsinha was under heavy police and military guard at the home of his wife’s parents in the mountain district of Ermera, 75km west of Dili.

Salsinha has spent the past four days there, awaiting the arrival of his rebels, who he has insisted must surrender with him.

Lt Col Paixao said a military convoy would escort the group to Dili, where they would be taken to Government Palace to formally hand themselves in to Vice Prime-Minster Jose Luis Gutteres.

They would later be handed over to the prosecutor general’s office.

If the surrender goes as planned, it will formally draw to a close the hunt for rebels wanted over the attempted assassinations of President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on February 11.

Mr Ramos Horta was critically injured in the attack on his home, during which Salsinha’s predecessor Alfredo Reinado was shot dead.

Authorities believe Salsinha led a coordinated attack on Mr Gusmao. The prime minister escaped unhurt.

Lt Col Paixao said all of the suspects wanted over the attacks were now in the hands of authorities, including four who were recently arrested in Indonesia.

The four are expected to be brought back to Dili next month.

Lt Col Paixao also said Salsinha and his followers had handed over eleven weapons, including some the military did not know they had.

“There are some Russian weapons that were not in our records, they could be from the guerrilla days and they dug them up or something,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Gusmao left for Indonesia today on an official visit.

He may use the trip to discuss with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono the possibility of extending the controversial Commission of Truth and Friendship report mandate, a spokesman from Mr Gusmao’s office said.

Human rights groups have raised concerns the report will be a whitewash, and fail to do justice for victims of the violence surrounding East Timor’s historic 1999 independence vote.

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