Subject: East Timor rebel escapes as Australian troops kill four supporters [3 reports]

President: Foreign troops raid East Timor rebel base; 4 killed
East Timor army rebel vows not to surrender

East Timor rebel escapes as Australian troops kill four supporters

SYDNEY, March 4 (AFP) -- Australian troops have stormed the stronghold of East Timorese rebel Alfredo Reinado, killing four of his armed men, but failed to capture the fugitive leader, an Australian defence official said Sunday.

"I can confirm that the International Security Force this morning conducted operations in Same, south of Dili," a Department of Defence spokesman told AFP.

Reinado, a former army major who has been partly blamed for unrest last year which led to around 37 people being killed and more than 150,000 fleeing their homes, has been holed up for days in Same, surrounded by Australian-led troops.

"The purpose of the operation was to apprehend Alfredo Reinado and his associates. At this stage we haven't apprehended him however operations will continue until such time as we do."

Although no members of the ISF were killed or injured during the offensive, "shots were fired and four armed Timorese men were killed when they posed an immediate threat to the lives of the ISF men involved", the spokesman said.

He said searches were under way including helicopter surveillance, roadblocks and foot patrols.

Many of Reinado's supporters were understood to have fled the town, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said.

Meanwhile, unrest has also broken out in the capital Dili, with shots ringing out since the early morning, ABC said. The Ministry of Education building has been raised and four cars torched, it added.

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao, who gave the ISF the go-ahead to apprehend Reinado, was due to make a national announcement Sunday, but this had yet to be confirmed, the ABC reported.

Australian and United Nations security officials in Dili said they feared the outbreak of widespread violence if the Australian soldiers killed or injured the rebel leader.


President: Foreign troops raid East Timor rebel base; 4 killed

By GUIDO GOULART Associated Press Writer

DILI, East Timor, March 4 (AP) - International security forces backed by helicopters raided a rebel hide-out in East Timor early Sunday and killed four suspected insurgents, officials said, though their leader escaped.

Australian-led forces had been surrounding Alfredo Reinado's base in the mountain town of Same since last week. The rebel leader, who fled the army last year and is wanted for his alleged role in deadly clashes that brought down the government, has ignored repeated calls to turn himself in.

"The international security forces are continuing to hunt for him," President Xanana Gusmao told reporters after acknowledging that Reinado escaped capture in the pre-dawn raid. "If he surrenders, the country will treat him well."

East Timor, one of the world's youngest and poorest nations, is struggling to regain stability after factional fighting between armed forces spilled into the streets of the capital, Dili, last year, killing at least 37 people and sending 155,000 fleeing from their homes.

Relative calm was restored with the arrival of foreign peacekeepers and the installation of a new government.

However, deadly fights continue between rival gangs, and there are fears presidential elections in April could trigger more violence.

Capturing Reinado -- who is heavily armed after stealing at least 20 weapons from a police post last week -- is a priority.

Australian commander Brig. Malcom Rerden said four armed associates of Reinado were killed in Sunday's raid. No foreign troops were killed or injured, he said.

"There are many operation details I cannot go into, but the priority is to achieve an apprehension as soon as possible so that the stability can be returned to the people of East Timor," Rerden said.

East Timor, home to just under a million people, became Asia's newest nation in 2002 after gaining independence from its occupier of 24 years, Indonesia.


East Timor army rebel vows not to surrender

By Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA, March 3 (Reuters) - An East Timor army fugitive who led a revolt that plunged the tiny nation into chaos last May said on Saturday he was willing to negotiate with the government but would not surrender to troops surrounding his hideout.

President Xanana Gusmao has ordered security forces to arrest Alfredo 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.

The arrest order came after Reinado allegedly led a raid on a police post and made off with 25 automatic weapons last month. Reinado denied attacking the police post, saying that police had given him the weapons.

"I am the one who proposed solving this problem through negotiation and dialogue," Reinado told Reuters by telephone.

"I always say don't use weapons to solve a problem because it cannot have good results but will only take lives and disturb state security."

He said the attorney general met him on Friday at his hideout where he sent his message to the government. He did not give details.

"I will only surrender to the law, not to any international power," Reinado said.

"I will not surrender for the president and prime minister's interest. I will surrender only for the peoples' interest."

He said in a text message that Australian troops were preparing to launch an attack late on Saturday. There was no confirmation from the troops, which have encircled his hideout.

"We are on alert to face any kind of attack," Reinado said.

Australia maintains 800 peacekeeping troops in East Timor, following last year's violence.

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

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

At the request of East Timor, Indonesia temporarily has closed its border with East Timor to prevent Reinado and his group sneaking into Indonesian territory.

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 United Nations administration.

An east-west divide in the impoverished nation erupted into chaos and gang violence in May following the sacking of 600 soldiers. The country is plagued by High youth unemployment and more than 100,000 people are displaced.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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