An autopsy of East Timor rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and a top
lieutenant pointed to their execution, rather than being shot by
security forces during a presidential assassination attempt, a report
The autopsy showed rebel soldier Leopoldino Exposto was shot once in
the back of the head at “close range” following the February 11
assassination attempt on President Jose Ramos-Horta, the Australian
Reinado, the 42-year-old army major who led a year-long mutiny
against the government, was also shot and killed at Mr Ramos Horta’s
presidential compound and four bullet entry wounds showed he was also
shot at extreme close range.
“There were multiple complex gunshot wound [sic] on the left face
surrounding the left eye, base of nose, upper cheek and forehead with
laceration and blackening of the skin,” Reinado’s autopsy said.
Reports of executions by security forces could stoke fresh divisions
in the fledgling country, where ethnic tensions are still raw.
East Timor has been unable to achieve stability since its hard-won
independence, with the army splitting along regional lines in 2006,
triggering violence that killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their
The autopsy said burning and blackening around Reinado’s wounds in
the eye, neck, chest and hand suggested he had been shot at a
distance of less than 30 centimetres, rather than by guards standing
10 metres away, which is the official version of events.
“Burning and blackening is a feature of very close-range shots,
probably from less than a foot away,” David Ranson, of the Victorian
Institute of Forensic Medicine, told the newspaper.
“If you see burning and soot-type burning, it indicates that the
barrel of the gun was very close to the skin’s surface.”
Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr Ramos-Horta was critically wounded in the
assassination attempt and he spent two months recovering in
Australia, where he was flown for life-saving surgery.
The attack also targeted Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped
The autopsies were conducted by forensic pathologist Dr Muhammad
Nurul Islam, who wrote that Exposto and Reinado were killed with a
Dr Nurul said Reinado’s wounds featured “blackening/burning”
especially so in his left eye, where the marks covered a large 10 cm
x 9 cm area, possibly indicating a point-blank shot.
Chest wounds also featured burning and blackening, despite the fact
Reinado was wearing a heavy black ammunition vest.
Exposto had a “satellite shaped gunshot wound on the back of the head
centrally located”, the report said.
A United Nations report into the assassination attempt has not yet
been released, while a criminal investigation by East Timor’s
prosecutor-general is running late.
Dr Nurul said the question whether Reinado had launched his attack
because of a drinking or drug binge would never be answered, as the
Dili morgue had no toxicological testing equipment, the newspaper said.
More than 2,500 foreign troops and police remain in the country to
help local security forces maintain stability.