If you’d heard that East Timor president Jose Ramos Horta had been shot, and Prime Minister Gusmao shot at, you’d immediately suspect the hand of rebel leader Alfredo Reinado. Ipso facto.

But there’s muddying of the waters in the press and across blogs today, as people try to come to grips with what’s happened. Reinado himself was killed in the shoot-out at the President’s residence.

Timor-Leste radio has been reporting that Reinado was actually staying with Ramos Horta, according to one blogger. This is directly contradicted by Gusmao in today’s Australian: “Some people have said that President Ramos Horta had called Alfredo Reinado to come to Dili. But this is not true. Before taking any action, the President always contacts me and the President of the national parliament to co-ordinate activities. I would have known if he had contacted Alfredo.”

What does seem clear is that the threat wasn’t taken seriously enough, either by East Timor’s leaders or the ADF and the UN. (In fact, UN forces apparently stayed 300 metres away from Ramos Horta after he was shot, ABC’s PM was told last night.)

Tough questions must be asked over the security role of the ADF in East Timor, writes Patrick Walters in today’s Australian

Why, amid renewed threats last week from Reinado against East Timor’s leaders, did the ADF and the UN-sponsored International Stabilisation Force not lift security around Jose Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmao? While both leaders have declined the offer of Australian personal bodyguards in recent months, why, given the heightened threats, did the ADF and UN authorities not move to lift the overall level of surveillance protection and perimeter security provided to both men?

And if yesterday’s attacks really were an attempted coup, some are asking why security hasn’t been more significantly stepped up since.

Conspicuous by their absence yesterday were “extra security at the TV and radio station (if this was a coup attempt these places should both have extra guards)”, writes Xanana Republic‘s English blogger.

Perhaps it’s just with Reinado gone, the threat seems diminished. As Tom Allard writes in today’s SMH, “there is no-one to replace him”.

Below are a couple of the blog posts that digest the situation, trying to untangle the half-based truths and jumbled facts. In East Timor, unconfirmed stories need to be taken with a grain of salt. As one of the bloggers says, they’re “about 90% correct but that 10% error can affect conclusions by 100%. Some local media were reporting that the President had died which everyone seems to agree is not the case. It is rarely straightforward here.”

Eyewitness report and some unanswered questions. I received an email this afternoon from a mate who is the de-facto head of the Dili surf life saving club. This is the 3rd person I know who was in the area at the time but this one is a bit closer to the bone. In fact, TS has had the nervous sh-ts all day – I can understand why. He writes :

I went out for my morning exercise at 0630, and got to the intersection to The President’s house when it all went pear shaped.

I had turned up the road for the hill ride, stopped and started when I heard the gunfire. There was a vehicle straddling the road, some rubbish as well, and I could see what looked like uniformed personnel running around the area. Lots of gunfire, then three rounds went off just beside me, but in the bush. I was still about 400 metres from the house so hopefully they were only shooting quail and not me. But I don’t think so. It was still around dawn, so I couldn’t see exactly what the vehicle was, but it looked familiar.

I turned back, and headed east, and bumped into the President who was with two of his guards. One was on the road, the other with the President on the beach. All this was about 6.40am.

I stopped them and told them what had happened … he said no to the offer of a ride, saying it should be OK…

My old mate FOS over at xananarepublic.blogspot.com also has his acquaintances down the eastern end of town and all I can suggest is you read what his take is. So if Radio Timor-Leste is correct and Alfredo really was staying at the President’s place, which group of people dressed as soldiers attempted to simultaneously (give or take 5 minutes) take out Alfredo, the President and the Prime Minister who lives some 10 kms away? — Dili-gence

Was Reinado staying with Ramos-Horta? As speculated earlier, it seems that the attack was carried out during JRH’s normal morning walk/run. A friend who lives about 300 metres away reported a fire-fight occurring at about 0650 this morning. From various wires/radio sources it appears that two vehicles drove by and then opened fire. Radio Timor Leste is reporting that Alfredo Reinado was indeed killed in the shootout but rather than being an attacker he was in fact a guest at JRH’s house and had been there for up to a week and ran out of the house during the attack to try and stop it and was killed in the crossfire. A contact at Dili hospital confirms two dead were brought to the hospital, neither of whom whas Alfredo. The Deputy PM is saying that three people were killed in the attack so maybe Alfredo was among them and not taken to Dili hospital. We are also hearing about an attack on a convoy containing Prime Minister Gusmao roughly 30 minutes after the attack on JRH. I have had a bit of a trawl around Dili in the past few hours and here are some observations:

Conspicuous by their absence: UN police cars outside Castaways and Dili Beach Hotel.

Conspicuous by their absence: Extra security at the TV and radio station (if this was a coup attempt these places should both have extra guards).

Conspicuous by their absence: Malae in Dili centre, apart from security forces.

Conspicuous by the non-absence: Many Timorese on the streets, especially in central Dili but not many people on the street in my area. Maybe the news hasn’t filtered down yet. — Xanana Republic

Peter Fray

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