Rebel soldiers shot and critically wounded East Timor's president and opened fire on the prime minister yesterday in a failed coup attempt in the recently independent nation. A top rebel leader was killed during one of the attacks.
East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace laureate, was injured in the stomach. He was flown to a hospital in Australia in an induced coma, breathing through a ventilator, a spokesman for the company that airlifted him out of East Timor said.
East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped an attack on his motorcade unhurt.
Army spokesman Major Domingos da Camara said rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and one of his men were killed in the attack on the home of Ramos-Horta, while one of the president's guards also died.
"I consider this incident a coup attempt against the state by Reinado and it failed," Gusmao said.
He called it a well-planned operation intended to "paralyze the government and create instability."
"This government won't fall because of this," he said.
As night fell, the government ordered a curfew in the capital, Dili, until dawn and the UN said road blocks had been set up on roads leading out of the seaside city.
The attacks plunged the tiny country into fresh uncertainty after the firing of 600 mutinous soldiers in 2006 triggered unrest that killed 37 people, displaced more than 150,000 others and led to the collapse of the government.
Reinado was one of several army commanders who joined the mutiny. While most have returned home, Reinado and an unknown number of armed supporters had remained in hiding, refusing pleas to surrender.
Australia announced it would send scores more soldiers to the international peacekeeping force it currently heads in the country, bringing total troop levels to around 1,000. The neighboring nation also pledged more police officers for the 1,400 strong UN-led force already there.
"Someone out there tried to assassinate the political leadership of our friend, partner and neighbor," Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said. "They have asked for some help, and we are about to provide it."
Ramos-Horta underwent surgery at an Australian army hospital in East Timor before being flown to the northern Australian city of Darwin for further treatment, said Ian Badham, a spokesman for medical evacuation service CareFlight International. Badham said Ramos-Horta was in critical condition, on a ventilator and "in an induced coma."
Two cars carrying rebel soldiers passed Ramos-Horta's house on the outskirts of the capital, Dili, at around 7am and began shooting, da Camara said. The guards returned fire, he said. Reinado, former head of the military police, took part in the attack and was killed.
Reinado was to go on trial in absentia for his alleged role in several deadly shootings between police and military units during the violence in 2006. He was briefly arrested but broke out of jail later the same year and had since evaded capture.
Despite the outstanding charges, Ramos-Horta had met with Reinado on several occasions in recent months to try to persuade him to surrender.
The attack on Gusmao's car was led by another rebel commander, Gustao Salsinha, said one of Gusmao's bodyguards, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Australian-led troops restored calm following the 2006 turmoil and Ramos-Horta was elected president in peaceful elections held in May last year. Low-level violence has continued in the country of 1 million people since then.
Deposed prime minister Mari Alkatiri has long maintained that Ramos-Horta's government is illegitimate. His political party immediately condemned yesterday's attacks in a statement released to the media.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, gained independence in 2002 after voting to break free from more than two decades of brutal Indonesian occupation.
The number of people from Hong Kong applying for residency in Taiwan last year rose 41 percent from a year earlier to 5,858, National Immigration Agency statistics showed. The statistics also showed that 600 applications were filed by Hong Kong residents in the first quarter of this year — three times the number filed in the same period last year — with applicants apparently not deterred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just one day after it was reported that the Chinese government plans to enact new national security laws in Hong Kong, inquiries regarding immigration to Taiwan grew 10-fold, a Hong Kong-based immigration
‘BEGINNING OF THE END’: Democracy advocate Joshua Wong urged Hong Kongers to stand up and fight, and let the Chinese government know that they will not cave Hong Kong protesters yesterday battled with riot police in busy downtown areas, showing their opposition toward China’s dramatic move to crack down on dissent in the biggest demonstration since the coronavirus swept through the territory in January. Police deployed a water cannon and fired tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping area after hundreds of protesters had gathered to oppose new national security legislation from China. Police warned the crowd they were taking part in an illegal gathering, and later said in a statement that “rioters threw umbrellas, water bottles and other objects at them.” At least 120 people were arrested,
‘TAIWAN IS SAFE’: As there have been no new local cases for 42 days, people should feel free to travel around the nation — as long as they follow disease prevention rules No new cases of COVID-19 were reported yesterday and only 20 of the people hospitalized after testing positive are still being treated in hospitals, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday in Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁) as he promoted a “new disease prevention lifestyle” for the nation. As yesterday was the 42nd consecutive day with no new domestic cases, and experts consider 28 consecutive days with no domestic case — the span of two incubation periods — a sign that a community is relatively safe, Taiwan is safe, said Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC),
SMOOTHER TRANSIT: Japan Airlines reportedly planned to land the flight at Haneda Airport, but changed it to Narita for direct flights to Taiwan The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday thanked Japan for allowing 94 Taiwanese on a chartered plane evacuating others stranded in Russia, where COVID-19 cases are rising and many international flights have been canceled. Ninety-four Taiwanese exchange students and expats, as well as two Russian spouses, arrived at Narita International Airport in Japan yesterday morning on a charter flight operated by Japan Airlines, before taking a transfer flight to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport last night, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said. As of press time last night, Russia had reported more than 362,000 cases of COVID-19, including more than 3,800 deaths. The government had