Dili (AsiaNews) – Australian troops are arriving by air and sea to maintain security on the island, where the interim president Vicente Guterres has decreed a 48 hour state of emergency. A dawn to dusk curfew has been put in place, following yesterday’s attempted coup, which left President Ramos Horta seriously injured. The East Timorese leader is currently in Darwin (Australia) and is due to undergo a third round of surgery. Yesterday he underwent lung surgery, to remove bullet fragments left by gunshot wounds. Doctors confirm that his condition is still critical but stable.
In the armed conflict which broke out yesterday morning the author of the attempted state coup was killed, Alfredo Reinado. The former military leader had already attempted a public revolt in 2006 after which he was condemned for murder. On escaping from prison, he gathered a group of rebels to him. Last January Horta had met with Reinado seeking national reconciliation in exchange for the groups disarmament.
Circa 1600 UN police among them at least 1000 Australian troops are patrolling Dili and other cities in fear of fresh violence.
East Timor an ancient Portuguese colony, subsequently invaded by Indonesia, gained Independence in 2002. The country of a little over one million inhabitants, 86% of whom are Catholic, is wracked by poverty. Its position however is of strategic importance, at the crossroads of important south east Asian shipping channels. The sea bed around Timor is apparently rich in oil and gas reserves which Australia and Indonesia both long to intensively exploit.