segunda-feira, 5 de março de 2007

Protests in East Timor after raid on army rebel

Protests in East Timor after raid on army rebel

DILI (Reuters) - Thousands of angry supporters of East Timor rebel Alfredo Reinado burnt tyres and threw stones in the capital on Monday to protest against a raid by international troops on the fugitive's hideout.

Reinado, who led a revolt that plunged the tiny nation into chaos last year, escaped Saturday's raid by an Australian-led international peacekeeping force in which four people were killed. <a href=""><img src="" width=300 height=250 border=0></a>

The protesters gathered in the heart of Dili, shouting slogans such as "Long Live Alfredo" and made speeches against President Xanana Gusmao, who ordered security forces to arrest Reinado following accusations the rebel had led a raid on a police post and made off with 25 automatic weapons last month.
International police have moved to secure the city where traffic was thin as the protesters blocked roads with wrecked cars, preventing many government officials from going to work, a Reuters witness said.

Troops are still searching for Reinado, who has been on the run since he escaped from jail in East Timor's capital Dili in August along with 50 other inmates. He has denied any of his men were killed in the raid.

After Saturday's raid, Gusmao urged Reinado to surrender, saying the government would treat him with respect. But Reinado has said he will not surrender to international troops.


"I will only surrender to the law, not to any international power," Reinado said told Reuters on Saturday. "I will not surrender for the president and prime minister's interest. I will surrender only for the peoples' interest."

Australia has 800 troops to keep peace in East Timor following last year's violence.

Reinado has made several public appearances since the escape, including a meeting with the country's military chief. Security forces did not make any attempt to arrest him.

The standoff between Reinado and the troops has raised fears of violence ahead of a presidential election next month.

Indonesia has temporarily closed its border with East Timor to prevent Reinado and his group sneaking into Indonesian territory at the request of East Timor's government.

Australia has warned of increased violence ahead of the poll after clashes between its peacekeepers and East Timorese refugees left two civilians dead last month.

East Timor voted in a 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia, which annexed it after Portugal ended its colonial rule in 1975. The country became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.

But an east-west divide in the impoverished nation erupted into chaos and gang violence in May following the sacking of 600 soldiers. High youth unemployment also plagues the country, where more than 100,000 people are displaced.

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