Note:  This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(by Thomas Bell, Feb. 12, 2008, BANGKOK – Australia used hundreds of its troops to prop up the government of East Timor yesterday, after leaders of the tiny Southeast Asian nation survived an assassination attempt during a failed coup by renegade soldiers.

President Jose Ramos-Horta, 58, a Nobel Peace laureate who played a key part in the struggle for independence, had a bullet removed from his lung by surgeons in Darwin, Australia, and was in a stable condition in an induced coma.

One of his bodyguards was injured and two would-be assassins died in a shootout at the president’s home in the East Timor capital, Dili.

One of the dead men was identified as Alfredo Reinado, East Timor’s most dangerous rebel.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped a similar attack. He declared a state of emergency and imposed an overnight curfew as rumors swirled around Dili about who might have supported the plotters and whether the country was still at risk.

“I consider this incident a coup attempt against the state by Reinado, and it failed,” Mr. Gusmao said.

“This was an organized operation because they also ambushed and attacked me as I was leaving for my office this morning,” he said.

Mr. Gusmao’s car was riddled with bullets, but no one was harmed.

The turbulent young country – which has huge offshore oil and gas reserves – was braced last night for further violence, as it was feared that followers of the plotters would seek to further destabilize the nation.

In 2006, Reinado, a former chief of the military police, led 600 mutinous soldiers in an orgy of arson and street fighting that left 37 persons dead and drove 100,000 from their homes.

He was arrested and charged with murder but escaped from prison and went on the run with a gang of supporters.

The chaos caused Australia to send an intervention force, which remains in the country, underpinning the government.

Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, described East Timor’s president and prime minister as “heroes” of their struggle for independence from Indonesia, whose brutal 25-year occupation of the territory saw the deaths of an estimated 100,000 Timorese.

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1.  a) What is the capital of East Timor?
b) Who is the president?
c) Who is the prime minister?

2.  Who was behind yesterday’s attack against the president and prime minister of East Timor? Be specific.

3.  a) What previous attack did Mr. Reinado lead in 2006?
b)  Why wasn’t Mr. Reinado in prison?

4.  For what reason did East Timor’s president win a Nobel Peace prize?

5.  Why do you think Australia was the country that sent troops to assist East Timor’s government?

6.  What happened to Mr. Reinado?


EAST TIMOR: (from the CIA World FactBook)

  • East Timor declared itself independent from [its colonial ruler] Portugal in November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later.
  • It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor).
  • An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals lost their lives.
  • In August 1999, in a UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia.
  • Between the referendum and the arrival of a multinational peacekeeping force in late September 1999, anti-independence Timorese militias – organized and supported by the Indonesian military – commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution.
    The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into western Timor as refugees.
  • The majority of the country’s infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100% of the country’s electrical grid were destroyed.
  • In September 1999 the Australian-led peacekeeping troops of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end.
  • On May 20, 2002, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state.


Go to for a map of East Timor.

For background information on East Timor, go to the CIA World FactBook website here.

Follow the most recent coverage of the situation in East Timor at Yahoo News.

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