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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Ramos-Horta recovers

Trying to decapitate the government in East Timor, with a dual attack against President Jose Ramos-Horta and Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister, was predictable in a country where violence has marked the early years of its history, since its independence in 2002.

At 4.30 local time, two cars parked at the door of the residence of the President of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta, in Dili. The group, led by Major Reinaldo, left, entered the home, assassinating one of the security guards of the President, who was wounded with two shots in hand / area of the stomach, and arm. Reinaldo was killed in the exchange of fire.

The President was taken to an Australian hospital in Dili and then to Darwin, Australia, where he is out of critical condition, according to the statements of the medical team.

Meanwhile, another attack, led by Lieutenant Salsinha was made against the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, who managed to escape unharmed when the vehicle that followed laid in ambush, returned to the capital and shortly after declared the situation was under control. This version of the events is yet to be confirmed but seems the most plausible.

This was predictable. During the past week, Reinaldo’s rebels were involved in a confrontation with Australian troops in an explosion at a military base. Reinaldo was the leader of the revolt that introduced chaos into the country in April / May 2006, in clashes in which 37 people died and 155,000 were displaced. Reinaldo was arrested but escaped and then took refuge up in the mountains with his group of rebels. In November, he promised to create a coup d'état if the government did not accede to the demands of rebel soldiers who had taken weapons with them.

State of maximum alert

A state of maximum alert was decreed not only in Dili but in the whole country, with a curfew of 48 hours. The streets are deserted, except for police. A calm and silence reigns, which some say may be the calm before the storm.

The situation illustrates once again the need for an international force - it was in early February that security in the capital city was handed to Timorese police.

The causes

The situation of chaos that led to the invasion by Indonesian troops in the 70s has been threatening to reappear since the country's independence in 2002. Armed groups do what they want, there is corruption, there is poverty, there is unemployment and the government’s capacity to act has been increasingly smaller.

The death of Reinaldo could be the end of a cycle but more and more people in Dili say that they fear it will be the beginning of yet another spiral of violence that has haunted this, the youngest country of the international community.