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East Timor president wounded in rebel attack

East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta is undergoing surgery at an Australian military base in the capital Dili after being shot in the stomach during an attack on his home by rebel soldiers.

world Updated: Feb 11, 2008 08:23 IST

East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta is undergoing surgery at an Australian military base in the capital Dili after being shot in the stomach during an attack on his home by rebel soldiers, a presidential adviser said on Monday.

The adviser said the president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle for independence from Indonesian occupation, was being operated on by an Australian medical team.

"President Ramos-Horta was shot in the stomach and is undergoing surgery at the heliport," the adviser, Agusto Junior, said.

Earlier, a neighbour of the president, Januario Freitas, told Reuters the stomach wound appeared serious.

Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed in the attack and an East Timor soldier was also seriously wounded, military spokesman Domingos da Camara said.

"Two cars attacked President Horta's home at 4.30 a.m. The attack was carried out by Alfredo's group," Camara said.

Asia's youngest nation has been struggling to claw its way back to stability after plunging into chaos in 2006 when the army tore apart on regional lines.

The factional bloodshed two years ago killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their homes, with foreign troops needed to restore order.

Reinado has led a revolt against the government and has been charged with murder during the 2006 factional violence.

Rebels loyal to Reinado fired on Australian troops patrolling near Dili earlier this month, an Australian commander said at the time.

As Australian peacekeeping soldiers in Dili cordoned off the president's residence, security analyst Alan Dupont, from Sydney think tank the Lowy Institute, said the shooting was grim news for East Timor.

"I'm afraid the promise of independence has faded quite considerably over the last couple of years," Dupont said.

"It is seriously going to destabilise East Timor further at a time when they looked to be recovering from the problems of the last 12-18 months."

Australia's government was being briefed on the shooting as senior ministers met in Canberra and a statement was expected later on Monday. Australia has around 800 troops in East Timor as part of an international security force.