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E. Timor Prepares Arrest Warrants in Connection with Assassination Attempt


East Timor's embattled government is preparing arrest warrants for 18 men believed to have been involved in the assassination attempts on the country's president and prime minister. Additional Australian peacekeepers continue to arrive in the tiny republic in an effort to stop further unrest. From Darwin in northern Australia, Phil Mercer reports.

East Timor's government is planning to order the arrest of 18 rebel soldiers believed to have been involved in the shooting Monday of President Jose Ramos Horta. He was badly wounded in the attack, in which fugitive rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed.

Insurgents also attacked the motorcade of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unhurt.

Mr. Ramos Horta is being treated at Australia's Royal Darwin Hospital after being airlifted there Monday.

He has undergone more surgery to repair a damaged lung and to remove bullet fragments after being shot in the chest and back. Further operations are expected.

Dr. Len Notaris says he is hopeful the East Timorese leader will make a good recovery, although for now, he remains in serious condition.

"It is foolish to be over confident at this particular stage," he said. "It's still very early days. We continue to maintain a high level of vigilance, exercising those clinical skills that we have become nationally and internationally known to perform extremely well."

The man accused of leading the assassination attempt, Alfredo Reinado, was blamed for leading an uprising in 2006 that drove thousands of civilians from their homes in fear. The violence resulted in the emergency intervention of peacekeepers from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal.

Reinado was indicted on several counts of murder, but escaped from jail awaiting trial.

Some observers say this week's events happened because the rule of law in the country is so weak, delaying Reinado's going on trial.

Following Monday's attacks, Australia is sending reinforcements to help the 1,600-strong United Nations police contingent.

The East Timorese capital, Dili, has been calm in recent days, but there are fears that forces loyal to Reinado could cause more trouble in the fragile democracy.

East Timor voted to split from Indonesia in a violence-plagued referendum in 1999.

Independence came in 2002 but has thus far failed to deliver peace or prosperity to an impoverished population.

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