|Subject: SMH: Plan was to kidnap, not
Sydney Morning Herald
Plan was to kidnap, not assassinate
Lindsay Murdoch in Dili
February 14, 2008
INVESTIGATORS believe that gangs of armed men led by East Timor's rebel leader Alfredo Reinado intended to kidnap, not assassinate, the country's two top political leaders during Monday's attacks in Dili.
They have been told that two separate groups of armed men attempted to kidnap the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, who managed to flee unharmed.
Seven armed men arrived at the front door of Mr Gusmao's house in the mountains above Dili, sources close to the investigation have told the Herald.
One of them knocked on the door and told the security guard who answered: "We're here to take the Prime Minister … We don't want any fuss."
But Mr Gusmao had shortly before left the house in a convoy to take the 20-minute drive down the mountains to Dili.
One of the men at the door then fired one shot, apparently to tip off a second group of men waiting to ambush Mr Gusmao further down the mountain, sources said.
The gunmen opened fire on Mr Gusmao's vehicle but apparently aimed at the tires, according to the sources. The driver accelerated through the ambush.
Investigators also believe Reinado went to the home of the President, Jose Ramos-Horta, to kidnap him. But his plans went horribly wrong, sources said, ending in his death and the serious wounding of Mr Ramos-Horta. "All the evidence points to a double kidnapping," a source close to the investigation, being led by the UN police, said.
East Timorese authorities have prepared arrest warrants for 18 men believed to have taken part in the attacks, based on the findings of an initial UN police investigation. One of them is Gastao Salsinha, the commander of 600 soldiers who were sacked when they went on strike over pay and conditions in 2006, prompting violent upheaval. Salsinha was one of the men who arrived at Mr Gusmao's front door, witnesses have told investigators.
East Timor authorities last night extended a 48-hour dusk to dawn curfew another seven days amid fears of a new outbreak of violence during Reinado's funeral, which is expected to be held in Dili today.
Reinado's father, Victor Alves, Mr Gusmao and Atul Khare, the UN's top official in Dili, last night made a joint appeal on television for Reinado's supporters to remain calm.
Political tensions in Dili were fuelled by the circulation of an explosive fake document that claims the former ruling Fretilin party offered Reinado $US10 million to assassinate Mr Ramos-Horta and Mr Gusmao.
Fretilin leaders say it is an attempt to destabilise the country. Analysts in Dili say the claims have the potential to provoke violence in Reinado's supporters.
Australian SAS commandos who arrived in Dili on Tuesday will lead 1000 Australian and New Zealand troops in the hunt for those wanted over the attacks.
In Darwin, doctors said it was likely to be at least three weeks before Mr Ramos-Horta could return to his country, and six months before he would be fully recovered.
with Ben Doherty
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