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Australian Troops in East Timor Hunt for Suspects in Attacks


Foreign troops have sealed off a village outside the East Timorese capital, Dili, as they hunt for the people who attacked the country's two top leaders and seriously wounded President Jose Ramos-Horta.

An Australian military spokesman, Major Phil Pyke, said Thursday the military operation began after what he called "persons of interest" were identified in the village.

At the same time about 1,000 mourners attended the funeral of rebel commander Alfredo Reinado in Dili, weeping and singing hymns. Reinado was killed during the Monday's attack on the president.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he plans to visit East Timor on Friday to send a clear message that Australia backs the democratically elected government. He will offer more assistance to the tiny southeast Asian nation, where nearly 300 Australian troops and federal police have been sent since the attacks.

On Wednesday, East Timor's parliament extended a state of emergency until February 23 because of the attacks.

East Timorese rebel leader Reinado escaped from prison in August, 2006, after he was convicted of inciting clashes between government forces and former rebel fighters earlier that year.

The violence killed 30 people and prompted 150,000 others to flee their homes, before Australian-led international forces, supported by the United Nations, restored order.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.