Wounded East Timor president out of coma

February 21st, 2008 - 11:50 am ICT by admin  

Sydney, Feb 21 (DPA) East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta is out of an induced coma and is talking to family members at his bedside, a spokesman said Thursday. The Nobel peace laureate and former prime minister survived an assassination attempt 11 days ago in the East Timor capital Dili.

Ramos-Horta, 58, was evacuated to Darwin in the far north of Australia after the botched coup, in which rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado was killed.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped uninjured when renegade soldiers linked to Reinado fired on his car.

“He (Ramos-Horta) is slowly waking up,” presidential spokesman Luke Gosling told Australia’s AAP news agency. “He’s started saying a few words to close family.”

Gosling said that doctors were pleased with reconstructive surgery performed Monday to repair gunshot wounds.

Ramos-Horta shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with compatriot Bishop Carlos Belo for leading the diplomatic campaign for East Timor’s freedom.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, and its occupation continued until 1999, the year Australia led an international force that helped guide East Timor to full independence in 2002.

The country of one million people fell into chaos in 2006 after 600 soldiers were sacked from the army and took to the hills. Reinado, who broke out of jail in 2006, was a hero to some of the soldiers who deserted with their guns.

Dili has remained calm since the botched coup. Australia has sent reinforcements, raising its deployment to nearly 1,000 troops, and a state of emergency has been declared in East Timor.

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