East Timor declares state of emergency

February 11, 2008 7:18:15 PM PST
East Timor declared a state of emergency Tuesday after attacks on the country's top leaders in a failed coup left the president in "extremely serious" condition with gunshot wounds. The assassination attempt Monday against President Jose Ramos-Horta and the failed attack on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao -- East Timor's the independence icons -- thrust the desperately poor country into a fresh crisis.

Surgeons operated on Ramos-Horta for three hours overnight to remove bullet fragments and repair his chest wounds, Dr. Len Notaros, the general manager of the Royal Darwin Hospital, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Tuesday.

"His condition remains extremely serious but by the same token, stable," Notaros said. "The next few days will be the telling point."

Ramos-Horta, who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to the decades-long Indonesian occupation, was shot in the chest and stomach by gunmen in two cars around dawn Monday, officials said.

Rebel soldiers separately attacked Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's motorcade an hour later. He escaped unhurt.

Acting President Vicente Gutterres announced the two-day emergency in an address on national television. The order allows authorities to ban demonstrations and gives police extended powers of search and arrest.

As he spoke, international soldiers and police patrolled the streets of the capital, Dili, where many shops and businesses were closed. There were no immediate reports of unrest.


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