- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2008

DILI, East Timor (AP) — The alleged triggerman in an assassination attempt on East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta wept today after surrendering with 11 other mutinous troops and handing over their automatic weapons.

A state of emergency is still in effect nearly three months after failed attempts on the lives of the tiny nation’s two leaders, with two suspects still at large. But today’s emotional surrenders went a long way toward easing tensions after more than a year of violence.

Ramos-Horta, 58, who nearly died in the Feb. 11 attacks, also cried when the alleged gunman, Marcelo Caetano, and 11 other rebels were brought before reporters at the Presidential Palace in Dili.

“I am happy our sons returned to Dili and that they surrendered their weapons,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said, adding that he did not want to lay blame. “The truth will be established by the court.”

Ramos-Horta was shot by men led by rebel commander Alfredo Reinado, who was killed during a shootout with guards. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unharmed from an ambush on his motorcade the same day.

The attacks showed the continuing volatility of East Timor since it declared independence in 2002 following decades of harsh Indonesian rule. Dozens of people have been killed in clashes between government troops and mutinous soldiers since then, and tens of thousands of citizens still live in squalid tent camps after fleeing their homes.

The 12 rebel troops who surrendered to authorities today handed over their automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition, army Lt. Fernando Gausege said.

They were later brought to the Presidential Palace to meet with Ramos-Horta, who asked them to confess to their crimes.

“I know who shot me, but I am not pointing any fingers,” he said, though he later named Caetano as the rebel who opened fire on him in the ambush in front of his home. “I have no desire for revenge.”

Caetano cried and kissed the president’s hand as television cameras rolled outside the palace.

In an interview with the military, another of the rebels, Commander Gastau Salsinha, apologized to the people of East Timor “who suffered during the crisis and many of whom are still living in refugee camps.”

“My men surrendered for the people of this country … they are ready to face justice,” he said.

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