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East Timor President Forgives Rebel Attackers


East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta has forgiven the rebel leader who nearly killed him last month, in an attack at his home. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins reports from Jakarta.

Acting East Timor President Fernando de Araujo says the country's wounded president, Jose Ramos Horta, has forgiven rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and asked the East Timorese people to end the violence in the tiny nation.

Last month, Mr. Ramos Horta was seriously wounded in a Dili attack by rebel soldiers led by Alfredo Reinado, who was killed during the attack.

Mr. Ramos Horta was rushed to Darwin, Australia, for emergency medical treatment. He is now recovering from two bullet wounds to the chest.

Acting President de Araujo says Mr. Ramos Horta's condition has improved greatly, but that he will need more time to fully recover from his wounds.

Mr. De Araujo visited Mr. Ramos Horta in Darwin, during the weekend. He says Mr. Ramos Horta also asked that the government look after the family of dead rebel leader Reinado.

Analysts see Mr. Ramos Horta's announcement of forgiveness as an attempt to encourage rebel soldiers to give themselves up, paving the way for reconciliation.

Sunday, one of the rebel leaders, Amaro da Costa, turned himself in at Turiscai, about 120 kilometers south of Dili.

The head of the task force hunting rebel soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel Filomeno Paixao, says arrest warrants have been issued for 17 people suspected of involvement in the attack, including Gastao Salsinha, who took command of the rebels after the death of Reinado.

Paixao says he has had both direct and indirect contact with Salsinha and hopes the rebel leader will soon surrender.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unharmed from a gun attack at the same time Ramos Horta was shot, has also asked the rebels to give themselves up, for the good of the nation.

East Timor remains under a state of emergency, since the February 11 attacks. The United Nations Security Council has extended for another year the mandate for the peacekeeping mission in the country, saying security remains fragile.

The tiny nation was plunged into violence in 2006, after the sacking of 600 soldiers split the military along regional lines.

Fighting between the security forces deteriorated into gang fighting in the streets, forcing more than 150,000 people into makeshift refugee camps, where thousands still remain.

Order was only restored after U.N. peacekeepers, led by Australian troops, were sent to the former Portuguese colony.

East Timor voted for independence from decades of Indonesian rule in a U.N.-sponsored vote in 1999.

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