East Timor rebel leader surrenders

April 29th, 2008 - 5:24 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, April 29 (DPA) East Timor rebel leader Gastao Salsinha and 12 of his men formally surrendered to President Jose Ramos Horta Tuesday, raising hopes that a two-year insurrection by disgruntled former soldiers is drawing to a close. Ramos Horta is still recovering from gunshot wounds sustained two months ago when the rebels launched twin assassination attempts on the president and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Australia’s ABC Radio reported that Ramos Horta, the 58-year-old Nobel laureate, shook hands with Salsinha and his fellow rebels and personally forgave them for the Feb 11 attack in which he nearly died.

The group handed in their weapons in a ceremony in front of the Governor’s Office in the centre of Dili. Ramos Horta said they would be charged and put before the courts along with other rebels already in custody, including four who were arrested in Indonesia.

The formal surrender came four days after Salsinha gave himself into the custody of fellow army officers in Gleno, 75 km west of Dili.

Ramos Horta led the diplomatic campaign that culminated in East Timor winning its freedom from Indonesia in 2002. He took over as interim prime minister a year ago after Mari Alkatiri resigned in the wake of the army mutiny.

Ramos Horta was elected president last year, taking over from Gusmao, who was in turn elected prime minister.

Gusmao was not present at the formal surrender because he is visiting Jakarta.

There is an international concern that despite the talk of charges and court appearances, no one will be held accountable for the insurgency that took dozens of lives and uprooted tens of thousands of people.

Salsinha was the right-hand man of Alfredo Renaido, who was shot dead during the attack on Ramos Horta. Reinado, who was implicated in a gun-battle that left six police officers dead, had been at large after escaping from prison last year.

Despite being technically on the run, Reinado, Salsinha and their gang had the government’s express permission to carry arms and travel free from the risk of arrest.

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