Friday, August 15, 2008

Reinado's death - shoot-out or execution?

Are the murky circumstances of the killing of East Timor rebel leader and cult hero Alfredo Reinado and a top henchman starting to unravel? Did they die in a shoot-out with security forces during a presidential assassination attempt - as the authorities would have us believe - or were they executed?
An autopsy report points to their execution, rather than being shot by security forces during a presidential assassination attempt, according to Paul Toohey in The Australian. His report was widely picked up by international news services and monitoring agencies. The autopsy showed rebel soldier Leopoldino Exposto was shot once in the back of the head at "close range" following the February 11 assassination attempt on President Jose Ramos-Horta, according to The Australian.
Reinado, the 42-year-old army major who led a rebellion against the former Fretilin government, was also shot and killed at Ramos-Horta's presidential compound and four bullet entry wounds showed he was also shot at extreme close range. "There were multiple complex gunshot wound (sic) on the left face surrounding the left eye, base of nose, upper cheek and forehead with laceration and blackening of the skin," Reinado's autopsy said.
Reports of executions by security forces could stoke fresh tensions in the fledgling country, where ethnic tensions are still raw. Interviewed by Radio New Zealand, Toohey ran through various scenarios alleging the Australians, Indonesians and other foreign hands in the deaths.
East Timor has been unable to achieve stability since its hard-won independence, with the army splitting along regional lines in 2006, triggering violence that killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their homes. Reuters reported:
The autopsy said burning and blackening around Reinado's wounds in the eye, neck, chest and hand suggested he had been shot at a distance of less than 30 cms, rather than by guards standing 10 metres away, which is the official version of events.
"Burning and blackening is a feature of very close-range shots, probably from less than a foot away. If you see burning and soot-type burning, it indicates that the barrel of the gun was very close to the skin's surface," David Ranson, of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, told the newspaper.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Ramos Horta was critically wounded in the assassination attempt and he spent two months recovering in Australia, where he was flown for life-saving surgery.
The attack also targetted Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped injury.
The autopsies were conducted by forensic pathologist Muhammad Nurul Islam, who wrote that Exposto and Reinado were killed with a high-velocity rifle. Nurul said Reinado's wounds featured "blackening/burning" especially so in his left eye, where the marks covered a large 10cm x 9cm area, possibly indicating a point-blank shot.
New Zealand's Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers Phil Goff Goff and Winston Peters said they were awaiting briefings on "new and possibly dangerous developments" in Timor-Leste.

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