Govt Tightens E. Timor Border; President Prays for Horta

JAKARTA ~ Indonesia tightened its border security with East Timor this week, officials said, as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono prayed for the recovery of his Timorese counterpart who was shot by rebels.

Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta was hit by up to three bullets in an assassination attempt on Monday and rushed to Australia for medical treatment, where doctors said they were hopeful he would make a full recovery.
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao also came under ambush but escaped unscathed.

Yudhoyono told reporters that such acts of violence “cannot be justified.”

“Privately, I pray that after undergoing a good treatment process, the health of President Ramos-Horta can be restored and he can immediately work and lead Timor-Leste again,” he said, referring to the nation formerly ruled by Indonesia for 24 years by its official name.

“I also hope that the responsible security and legal authorities in Timor-Leste can overcome and restore conditions, as well as enforce the law in the best manner possible,” he said.

Yudhoyono said he had instructed the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) to ensure that security was being enforced along the borders between the two nations.

The Indonesian military commander of the border region earlier said he had requested border security be tightened “to prevent the escape of rebels from East Timor to West Timor.”

“We are doing this by stepping up our patrols along the border between the two countries, and tightening our surveillance of the general traffic going through the land border crossings,” Indonesian armed forces border commander for West Timor, R.M. Kusdaryono, told reporters.

Rebel boss Alfredo Reinado was shot dead during the firefight at Ramos-Horta’s residence, Gusmao said, but other rebels fled and were being hunted down.

“All known wild paths between the two countries are now under tight monitoring,” Kusdaryono said, adding that the armed forces were coordinating with police and had called on residents living along the border to be alert.

Troop numbers would not be boosted however, he said, adding that about 1,000 men were posted along the notoriously porous border.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said Indonesia was concerned over the attack, “which once again showed that the security situation in East Timor continues to be disturbed” since 2006, when violence flared on Dili’s streets.

That unrest saw Reinado rise to prominence as a rebel leader who has since been on the run from authorities after escaping from jail.

Wirayuda said that with the death of Reinado, “hopefully the rebellion will weaken and it is our hope that his followers surrender so that the problem of security disturbances in this neighbor of ours can soon be overcome.”

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and ruled until the United Nations took charge and the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly in favor of breaking away. The nation finally became independent in 2002.

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