Gusmao orders rebel leader arrested

By Lirio da Fonseca DILI, Reuters

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao has ordered security forces to arrest a fugitive army renegade who allegedly led a raid on a police post and made off with over two dozen weapons.

East Timor’s officials have accused Alfredo Reinado and his militia group of attacking a police station in Meliana district on Sunday, stealing 25 automatic weapons.

“Alfredo and his group have done a very stupid thing,” Gusmao told reporters late on Monday.

“As the president and the supreme commander of the armed forces, I have given the authority to international forces to arrest Alfredo,” he said.

Australia has 800 troops to keep peace in East Timor following violence last year.

Reinado, who led a revolt that plunged East Timor into chaos last May, escaped from jail in East Timor’s capital Dili in August along with 50 other inmates.

He has made several public appearances since the escape, including a meeting with the country’s military chief and security forces did not made any attempt to arrest the fugitive.

Reinado denied attacking the post, saying that police had given him the weapons.

“I asked for those weapons from police to protect the security of the people because there are certain parties who wish to use the weapons for their own benefit, for the benefit of a certain political party, ahead of the presidential elections,” he told Reuters by telephone.

“I didn’t steal the weapons. The police gave them to me.”

East Timor is due to hold a presidential election in April.

Indonesia has temporarily closed its border with East Timor to prevent Reinado and his group sneaking into Indonesian territory at the request of East Timor’s government.

Australia has warned of increased violence ahead of the poll after clashes between its peacekeepers and East Timorese refugees left two civilians dead last week.