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Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Uneasy calm on East Timor streets

An Australian peacekeeper in Dili on 11 February 2008
Security remains very tight in the East Timorese capital, Dili

An uneasy calm is reported on the streets of the East Timor capital, Dili, a day after President Jose Ramos-Horta was shot by rebel soldiers.

Patrols by police and international troops were stepped up after acting leader Vicente Gutterres formalised a two-day state of emergency.

Mr Ramos-Horta remains in a serious but stable condition.

World leaders condemned the attack, described by East Timor leaders as an attempted coup.

The rebels also targeted Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao but he was not injured.

The apparently coordinated attacks have raised fears of renewed violence in East Timor, which saw widespread unrest and street battles in mid-2006.

'Extraordinary situation'

Speaking in a televised address, Mr Gutterres announced the special measures.

JOSE RAMOS-HORTA
Jose Ramos-Horta
Founder of East Timor's independence movement
Spent 24 years in exile after Indonesia invaded
Won Nobel Peace Prize in 1996
Former journalist, fluent in five languages

"Our country is right now in an extraordinary situation where a state of emergency will bring us back to normality," he said. "I ask for your help."

The 48-hour emergency order bans all public gatherings and meetings. Residents must remain at home between the hours of 2000 and 0600.

Extra Australian troops have begun arriving in East Timor to reinforce peacekeepers and help boost security. An Australian warship is also in place off the coast of East Timor.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Dili says the streets of the capital are empty of civilians after curfew.

Peacekeepers and police are out in force on the city streets and an uneasy calm prevails, he says.

"I am going back home early because I'm afraid of gang fighting or protests," student Antonio Gomes told Reuters news agency.

Emergency surgery

In the hospital in Darwin, Australia, where Mr Ramos-Horta was taken after the shooting, doctors said he would need further surgery, but said they were hopeful for a full recovery.

Dr Len Notaras said three surgeons had operated on Mr Ramos-Horta for more than two hours on Monday night, dressing wounds and removing shrapnel.

Alfredo Reinado

"After losing such a huge amount of blood in the shooting... he's very fortunate to have survived," he told the BBC.

The veteran politician was shot three times in the stomach and chest in the early-morning attack at his residence in Dili.

His bodyguard was also injured and two rebel soldiers, including fugitive leader Alfredo Reinado, were killed. Rebels also shot at a car carrying Mr Gusmao, but no-one was hurt.

Reinado, a former military officer, had been on the run since the wave of violence that swept through East Timor in mid-2006.

A decision by then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to sack 600 soldiers triggered weeks of clashes between factions of the police and the army.

At least 37 people died and more than 150,000 were displaced. Australian-led peacekeepers were brought in to help restore security.

Reinado was accused of being involved in several shooting incidents during the violence and charged with murder. He had been holed up in the mountains with a group of followers for several months.

Our correspondent says the nation has been left badly shaken by the attack, which has exposed the bitterness that still divides it six years after independence.

The country faces many other problems, including serious gang violence, while many people seem addicted to aid and are still living in sodden refugee camps, he says.


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The scene of the attack on the president



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