Reinado supporters threaten Gusmao family
March 06, 2007 05:20pm
Article from: AAP
SUPPORTERS of East Timor's rebel leader Alfredo Reinado have
threatened to murder President Xanana Gusmao's family as punishment
for asking Australian troops to hunt down the renegade major.
Australia today told its citizens to get out of East Timor and also
moved to evacuate embassy staff and their families who wanted to leave.
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson also said Canberra would review its
troop deployment of 800 if widespread violence flared.
The homes of two of Gusmao's sisters have been attacked since
Australian forces stormed Reinado's mountain stronghold on Sunday,
killing five of his supporters, one of the women said today.
Reinado escaped and Australian troops continue to search for him in
the countryside around the town of Same, south of Dili, where the
raid took place.
The deadly assault by the Australians touched off street violence
across Dili, but authorities said a relative calm had returned to the
However, there are fears of another outbreak of widespread violence,
with Reinado supporters urging East Timorese to attend a
"demonstration for justice" on Thursday.
Another trigger point could come tomorrow, when a court verdict is
expected for former interior minister Rogerio Lobato, accused of
going behind the Government's back to arm civilians loyal to Reinado
Reinado is wanted for leading a band of breakaway soldiers last April
and May, when battles between rival security factions degenerated
into rampant violence across East Timor.
The unrest sparked the intervention of the international peacekeeping
force, including 800 Australians given the job of preventing a repeat
of the chaos.
The president's sister Armandina Gusmao today told how her family had
been threatened with death and said her home, and that of her sister
Manuela, had been attacked following the Australian raid on Reinado's base.
She said a pro-Reinado mob surrounded her home overnight, saying they
would kill her president brother's family "to the third generation".
She said the mob hurled objects at her house and harassed her family
for hours after earlier ransacking Manuela's Dili home.
"They took everything," Armandina Gusmao said of mob raid on her
"The only reason they didn't burn it was because they wanted to steal
"It's just like Indonesian times," she said, referring to the
violence that occurred during Jakarta's occupation of East Timor.
"What hurts me most is that Timorese are doing it."
Meanwhile, the tiny nation's oldest human rights group was warning of
the potential for civil war today, stemming from the Australian
troops' raid on Reinado's Same base.
Jose Luis Oliveira, of the HAK Foundation, said Gusmao had violated
East Timor's constitution by calling on international troops to
settle what was an internal affair, paving the way for an insurgency.
"The president gave the order and the Australian force implemented
it, but it was the wrong decision," Oliveira said.
Australia had acted "as an instrument of the political elites of
Timor," and "the barricades in the streets of Dili are a reaction" to that.
"The population supports Alfredo and is capable of prolonged resistance."
An international forces spokesman today said a fifth body was
recovered from the site in Same where Australians stormed Reinado's base.
Families gathered at the main hospital in Dili, where the bodies of
the other four men are reportedly being kept.
But Oliveira said relatives were distraught because officials were
refusing to release the names of the dead men.
Mr Gusmao has warned of a security crackdown, saying: "The state will
use legal mechanisms, including force if necessary, to halt violence,
damage to private property, killings, and to re-establish general
order as soon as possible."
Prime Minister John Howard today said a mix of military operations
and local political will was required to bring the situation in East
Timor under control.
"It's a reminder that this country is still fragile and still needs
our help and still needs our investment of people and military and
police capacity," Mr Howard said.
There are fears the latest unrest could derail presidential elections
set down for April 9.
Gusmao has said he will not seek re-election, and is believed to be
forming his own political party to take a tilt at national elections
due later in the year.