An opposition leader in East Timor yesterday accused Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri of being linked to an alleged gang attack that left four opposition supporters seriously injured.
Alkatiri, who many blame for weeks of unrest during which gangs have roamed the capital Dili armed with pistols and machetes, has previously denied any connection to violence and intimidation of opponents.
The four men were in intensive care at the Guido Valadares hospital in Dili, Labor Party vice-president Angela Freitas said, alleging an attempted cover up of the attack.
She said the four were beaten after a meeting by a coalition of opposition parties on Thursday.
The four "had just returned to a house in Comoro district for a shower and were attacked by 17 men armed with machetes and guns who had been lying in wait," Freitas said.
"The four are coordinators for the opposition and one of them is in a coma," she said, adding that hospital staff were trying to keep the news from leaking out.
"Attacks like this are continuing but are unreported," she said.
Asked why she believed the attackers were linked to Alkatiri, she said: "This is a small town and I am connected at the grassroots level."
One of the four men, who was comatose, lay on bedsheets stained with blood. He was hooked up to a machine, his breathing labored. Another appeared to have a knife wound to his abdomen.
Doctors at the hospital said the four were in a car accident and denied they had been attacked.
Many Timorese blame Alkatiri for violence that erupted after he sacked 600 soldiers in March after they went on strike complaining about regional discrimination.
Alkatiri has resolutely refused to bow to pressure to step down and acting spokesman Miguel Sarmento denied yesterday that he was linked to the violence.
"He denies all that," Sarmento said. "He never had a gun in his hand," he said, adding that the prime minister was a lawyer who respected the Constitution and human rights.