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Indonesia extradites East Timor army rebels

world Updated: May 05, 2008 12:17 IST
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Indonesia on Monday extradited four rebel soldiers from East Timor wanted for alleged involvement in attacks on the tiny nation's president and prime minister in February.

Indonesian authorities handed over the four soldiers to East Timor Prosecutor-General Longuinhos Monteiro at the airport in the resort island of Bali, from where they were flown home.

Monteiro said they would likely be charged with attempted murder and could face a maximum 25 years in jail if found guilty.

"When we arrive in Dili on Monday we will question them immediately to decide on their detention status," Monteiro told reporters.

The rebel troops were part of a group of 600 disgruntled soldiers who were sacked from the army in 2006. The dismissal triggered violence that killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their homes.

The rebels' leader, Alfredo Reinado, was killed during the attack on President Jose Ramos-Horta, who was critically wounded. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped a separate attack unharmed.

Three of the rebels were arrested in Indonesia's West Timor during a special police operation on April 19, Indonesian police said in a statement.

The fourth was captured in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, late last month, it said.

Ramos-Horta, who recently returned to Dili after recuperating for two months in Australia, upset Jakarta by suggesting that elements from neighbouring Indonesia were behind the plot.

But later he said he was referring to East Timorese in Indonesia and not the Jakarta government or its military.

Indonesia occupied East Timor for 23 years before the former Portuguese colony voted in favour of independence in a UN-sponsored ballot in 1999.

As Asia's youngest nation, the country is still struggling to achieve stability despite its rich oil and gas resources.