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East Timorese rebel leader surrenders

world Updated: Apr 29, 2008 10:58 IST

AFP
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An East Timor rebel leader whose men launched armed attacks on the country's president and prime minister surrendered to police on Tuesday in a formal ceremony.

Militant leader Gastao Salsinha, who topped the list of those most wanted over the attacks, and 11 of his men handed in their rifles and gave themselves up into police custody after lengthy negotiations with authorities.

President Jose Ramos-Horta was on hand to witness the surrender along with Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres and House Speaker Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo.

Ramos-Horta was almost killed in the February 11 attack on his residence, while Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unhurt from a simultaneous ambush on his convoy.

Gusmao is on official visit to Indonesia and was unable to attend Tuesday's ceremony.

"The event this day is a historical event for the people and this country. The people of Timor Leste have been able to show the world that if we unite we can build peace and stability," Guterres said.

Also present at the ceremony was UN mission Chief Atul Khare, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Salsinha was the right-hand man of Major Alfredo Reinado, who was killed leading the coordinated attacks. The motives for the shootings remain unclear.

Ramos-Horta was severely injured with multiple gunshot wounds but recovered after some two months of medical treatment in Australia.