The President of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta, has been shot and wounded in attack by rebel soldiers at his home in the capital Dili, an army spokesman said. A fugitive renegade soldier who has been blamed for recent unrest in the fledgling nation was killed in the raid on the president's home. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports for VOA.
Reports from Dili say Jose Ramos-Horta was shot in the stomach during the shoot-out. He's undergone emergency surgery at an Australian hospital in Dili.
The president is said to be in a stable condition and is expected to be flown to Darwin in northern Australia for further treatment.
East Timor television reported that the home of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao also came under fire, but that no one was hurt. There is speculation that the rebel soldiers may have been staging a coup attempt.
The attack on Mr. Ramos Horta happened at around 7:00 am local time Monday, when two cars drove past the president's house and their occupants began shooting.
Fugitive rebel commander Alfredo Reinado was killed. The former military police chief had led a revolt against East Timor's government and had been indicted for his alleged role in fighting between rebel troops and police in 2006. The fighting forced tens of thousands of people from their homes. It prompted the intervention of peacekeepers from Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia, which make up the International Stabilization Force in East Timor.
Dili businessman, Alchino da Silva, says the apparent assassination attempt o the president has come as a shock.
"This is definitely a surprise," he said. "No-one expected that anything like this could happen here in Dili given that there's a lot of ISF [International Stabilization Force] here and a lot of UN police."
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, voted to break away from Indonesia in a violence-marred vote in 1999. It became independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration, but remains one of the world's poorest nations.
Jose Ramos-Horta was prominent in the campaign against Indonesia rule, after the Portuguese withdrew from their former colony in 1975. A decade later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.