Subject: 'Dum-dum' bullets nearly cost Ramos Horta his life, but he grieves for attacker

The Age

'Dum-dum' bullets nearly cost Ramos Horta his life, but he grieves for attacker

Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin

March 12, 2008

EAST Timor President Jose Ramos Horta was almost killed by a banned soft-nosed bullet that expands when it hits, inflicting a large jagged wound. The "dum-dum" bullet is banned by the Geneva Convention.

Mr Ramos Horta suffered three holes in the right side of his back and another huge wound in the area of his ribs.

Doctors in Darwin extracted metal fragments lodged deep in muscle close to his spine. But in what Royal Darwin Hospital manager Len Notaras described as a triumph for medical staff, Mr Ramos Horta is expected to make a full recovery after six operations.

Mr Notaras said the fragments had been taken away for examination by Australian Federal Police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr Ramos Horta last night made a national address to East Timor's 1 million people, urging all political parties to work together to solve the country's problems. He thanked Timorese for their support, naming rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and renegade former army lieutenant Gastao Salsinha as his attackers.

Mr Ramos Horta also thanked all Australians for their support, including medical staff in Dili who he said saved his life.

The address will be aired on Timor television tonight (Wednesday).

The Age has also learnt that a gangster in Jakarta called Hercules is under investigation over his links to Reinado.

Hercules visited Dili only days before the February 11 attack on Mr Ramos Horta.

Hercules, who has one eye and one arm, became well known in Indonesia as a "dirty tricks" operative under the former dictator Suharto after he went to live in Jakarta in the 1980s. He was implicated in a failed 1999 plot to assassinate East Timor's former Indonesian-appointed governor and political party leader Mario Carrascalao.

Four weeks after the attacks the Government in Dili still has not released any information about the events that led to Mr Ramos Horta being shot at his villa on a hill overlooking Dili harbour.

Rebels holed up in East Timor's rugged mountains have given a version of the attacks that contradicts Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. But Mr Gusmao insists the rebels wanted to assassinate him and Mr Ramos Horta in an attempt to topple the Government.

What is not known is whether Reinado was acting alone when he led 10 of his men to Mr Ramos Horta's villa shortly after dawn on February 11.

A politically well-connected person from Dili was with him in a mountain town until 11pm the night before the attacks. The person is known to have received money from an undisclosed source, The Age has learnt.

When Reinado arrived at Mr Ramos Horta's house shortly after dawn he and one of his men went inside. Both were killed.

What doesn't make sense, though, is that Reinado would want to kill Mr Ramos Horta, the person who had done more than anybody else to facilitate his surrender, even promising to push for his pardon for the crimes of mass murder and rebellion.

Mr Ramos Horta was upset when he heard that Reinado was dead. Within days of waking from an induced coma in hospital he asked the Government in Dili to forgive Reinado and look after his family.


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