IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Suspect held in shooting of East Timor’s leader

/ Source: The Associated Press

An ex-policeman suspected of having shot and wounded East Timor's president last month was in custody Sunday after surrendering to police, military officials said.

Amaro da Costa turned himself in without a fight late Saturday, handing over two automatic weapons and some ammunition, Lt. Col. Filomeno Paixao said. Two military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, described da Costa as an ex-policeman suspected in the shooting.

President Jose Ramos-Horta is still recovering from the attack outside his home on Feb. 11. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unharmed from an ambush on his motorcade the same day.

Da Costa was among 17 suspects wanted in the attacks. They each face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of attempting to murder the country's two top leaders, prosecutors have said.

No other arrests have been made, but East Timorese troops and an Australian-led peacekeeping force are searching the remote hilltops for the rebel suspects.

The attacks highlighted the nation's volatility six years after declaring independence, and were the latest chapter in a bitter dispute between hundreds of renegade troops and the government.

Da Costa told reporters Sunday he "was involved" in the Feb. 11 "incident" at Ramos-Horta's residence.

"I will explain the details at the attorney general's office," he said.

The tiny nation broke violently from Indonesia in 1999 following 24 years of brutal occupation. It declared independence three years later after a brief period of U.N. administration.

The euphoria of self-determination was shattered in 2006 when police and army forces disintegrated into warring factions and the government collapsed amid widespread looting, arson and gang warfare.

At least 37 people were killed and 155,000 others driven from their homes before thousands of foreign police and soldiers returned to restore calm.

Ramos-Horta and Gusmao, revered icons of resistance during Indonesian rule, became president and prime minister in elections last year.

Da Costa was among hundreds of rebel troops who fled to the hills after the unrest in 2006, along with commander Alfredo Reinado, who was shot and killed during the attack at Ramos-Horta's home.