Cablegate: Aussies Brief On Reinado Operation

DE RUEHDT #0101/01 0710857
P R 120857Z MAR 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DILI 000101



E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/12/2017

REF: A) DILI 94, B) DILI 96, C) DILI 95

DILI 00000101 001.2 OF 003

CLASSIFIED BY: Seiji T. Shiratori, DCM, EXEC, State.
REASON: 1.4 (a), (b), (d)

1. (C) Summary: International Stabilization Forces (ISF)
commander Brigadier Malcolm Rerden and Australian Ambassador to
East Timor Margaret Twomey briefed Emboffs March 9, reviewing
the current status of ISF operations to apprehend Major Alfredo
Reinado and summarizing a meeting Rerden has just attended with
top GOET and UN officials to discuss strategy to resolve the
crisis. Rerden told us that the ISF mission remains committed
to apprehend dissident military officer Major Alfredo Reinado
and his band alive. Rerden said the operation to date has been
a success in that it has met the prerequisite of no civilian
casualties, and Reinado was able to slip away from the holdout
in Same on March 4 in large part because ISF had given him every
opportunity to surrender before launching an assault.
Summarizing his just-concluded meeting with the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), the President,
Prime Minister, Prosecutor General, the military commander,
Speaker of Parliament and other officials, Rerden described how
neither UN nor GOET officials could find a face-saving way of
communicating with Reinado in order to convince the rogue
soldier to turn himself in. Rerden confirmed that ISF does not
know where Reinado is hiding, that they are trying to cut off
attempts to escape by boat, and that the President had stated
the Government's determination to let the operation drag on for
weeks if necessary. End Summary.

2. (C) Australian Ambassador Margaret Twomey at our request
arranged for Charge d'Affaires (CDA), Deputy Chief of Mission
(DCM) and U.S. Defense Representative (USDR) to meet with ISF
commander Brigadier Malcolm Rerden the evening of March 9, to be
briefed on the current state of the operation to bring in rebel
military officer Major Alfredo Reinado. Rerden came to our
meeting directly from Tripartite consultations among GOET
leaders, UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) leaders,
and Rerden. Rerden briefed us extensively verbatim from his
written notes of the meeting. The primary purpose of the
meeting apparently was to discuss a March 4 revised petition on
terms of surrender from Reinado sent to GOET and UNMIT leaders
by Reinado's attorney Benevides Correia. (Note: See Ref A.
CDA received same document two days ago and passed this to
Twomey. We sent scanned version to EAP). Besides Rerden,
attendees at the meeting included: President Xanana Gusmao,
Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, Vice Prime Minister (VPM)
Estanislau da Silva, Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro,
SRSG Atul Khare (SRSG), Deputy (security) SRSG Eric Tan, Timor
armed forces (F-FDTL) Commander Taur Matan Ruak, and Speaker of
Parliament Francisco Lu-Olo Guterres, among others.

Rerden Recounts Political Discussion of Reinado Predicament
--------------------------------------------- -----------------

3. (C) Rerden recounted the following discussion with GOET and
UNMIT officials: Monteiro spoke first stating that he would no
longer be in contact with Reinado, in order to avoid conflict of
interest. SRSG Khare, listed along with Dili Bishop Dom Alberto
Ricardo da Silva as a witness on the Reinado petition, said
UNMIT could not be a witness because of troubling points in the
petition. Khare noted that all weapons must be secured before
the UN can be involved, and that the SRSG cannot be a witness to
a document between the government and someone facing criminal
charges. VPM da Silva then said Reinado must be treated as a

Ramos-Horta Vacillates

4. (C) An uncertain Ramos-Horta then replied that there are both
political and social issues at play, that they should not rule
out the option of some sort of surrender, and that GOET should
not be publicly seen as ruling out the surrender option. He
added, however, that surrender is the first goal, asking if
perhaps Dili Bishop Ricardo could help open direct doors of
communications with Reinado. (See Ref B for account of the
Bishop saying he does not want to play that role). Ramos-Horta
closed by vacillating back to the view that Reinado must
surrender himself and his weapons.

DILI 00000101 002.2 OF 003

5. (C) President Gusmao replied that the Reinado petition has no
status and that the state would not respond to the document
directly. (Note: See Ref C, Gusmao Expounds on Reinado,
Elections.) He asked if perhaps Reinado would talk to the
Bishop. Gusmao told the Prosecutor General that he could talk
to lawyer Correia only about item 6: "That all charges be
dropped against me." Also, all weapons would need to be turned
in before any discussions could begin.

6. (C) Matan Ruak then also chimed in that perhaps the Church
could help, or maybe they should appeal to Reinado through the
media, but that there should be no direct negotiations. Lu-Olo
took a hard-line stance of no state negotiations: surrender or
arrest. If the Church is used, the word will leak out and the
state will be damaged. Gusmao said the GOET should not contact
the Church, and that only Correia should. Lu-Olo rejected
talking to the media and all dialogue, but did suggest that
perhaps Father Domingos Maubere might talk to Reinado. (Note:
Father Maubere is known as pro-Alfredo Reinado and is often
opposed to the ruling Fretilin party. Observers suggest,
however, that his close occupation-era ties to independence
movement leaders continue to afford him respect and trust among
current GOET leaders.) Ramos-Horta wanted someone to take the
GOET message directly to the media but in the end no one in the
room was willing to do so, Rerden recounted. (Note:
Ramos-Horta had already addressed the nation on local television
--- TVTL --- the night of March 8, telling Reinado that if he
wants UN Police and ISF to withdraw, he must surrender all
weapons. The speech resulted in rumors that same night that the
PM had announced Reinado's surrender and the withdrawal of ISF
troops, a false interpretation of a confusing speech that Rerden
said reached all the way to Canberra).

Military Operation Described

7. (C) Rerden also briefed us on the military operation. He
said the overall mission remained one of "apprehending Reinado
and his men," without casualties if at all possible, with
surrender being the primary emphasis of the operation. He said
the March 4 operation "was a success" because it met the
prerequisite of no civilian casualties. Reinado's side had five
killed in the course of two significant engagements initiated by
Reinado's side, Rerden confirmed. Rerden described how ISF
called out for Reinado to surrender one last time in the early
hours of Sunday morning when ISF was staged for an assault, and
then initiated the attack with teargas. ISF's Australian and
New Zealand forces continued to call out to Reinado's group to
surrender during the beginning of the assault even though they
were being fired upon, and did not fire back until it became
clear that Reinado's men were not going to cease fire, and
because they were in imminent danger, Rerden said. ISF assumed
great risk in operating in this manner but minimization of
civilian casualties was preeminent, Rerden told us. There would
have been many more than five casualties had they acted more
aggressively, he said. There were no Australian casualties, he

8. (C) One of Reinado's key lieutenants - "Nixon" - was found in
the company of nuns who were nursing his injuries; they
subsequently turned him in to ISF after prolonged negotiations.
There were four killed in initial reports, but ISF later found a
fifth casualty who had fallen off a steep embankment after being

9. (C) ISF conventional forces were pulling out of Same and
operating at a lower operational profile because larger forces
were actually spooking Reinado's men to stay under cover, Rerden
said. They are now operating in a smaller, covert manner in the
hope that the fugitives can be lured into the open. ISF is no
longer conducting vehicle checkpoints in the Same area. Same is
no longer a restricted area and is safe for general passage.
(Note: Rerden invited Emboffs to visit Same and following a
check by RSO with ISF and other security officers that Same is
safe, Emboffs arrived in Same the afternoon of March 12 to talk
firsthand with persons on the scene. Emboffs are also talking
with sources in other parts the western region to determine the
extent of Reinado's support.)

Interesting Operational Notes

DILI 00000101 003.2 OF 003

10. (C) Rerden said the focus of continuing surveillance
operations is along the Ainaro - Same - Alas corridor.
Reinado's group is greatly dispersed and operating in 2-3 man
teams; over 25 escaped from the target area during the ISF
assault on March 4, more than likely armed. ISF also is closely
watching suspicious maritime activity, largely due to Reinado's
penchant for using the sea as a means of facilitating his own
operations; the night of March 8 there was a boat operation in
Dili which resulted in the boarding of one underway vessel by
ISF helicopter commandos; no weapons were found, and boat
occupants were released following the search. Rerden said
Reinado will hear about this search, and this may dissuade him
from conducting boat operations. Contrary to previous reports,
no tunnels were found at the Portuguese fort Reinado was
encamped at in Same.

Rerden: Reinado Support All Hype

11. (C) Rerden said that contrary to their initial analysis that
Reinado was moving from town to town building support, they now
believe that he kept moving because townspeople "got sick of
him." Claims of widespread Reinado support are all media hype,
he opined. Rerden cited threats of mass demonstrations that
never materialized. There was no big reaction in any western
cities nor any sign of discontent. An ISF officer talked with
69 petitioners in Gleno the night before the assault to discuss
the operation in a public diplomacy outreach. They all
sympathized with Reinado but none said they would join him.
"Maybe he was too much of a loose canon," Rerden said.

12. (C) Rerden described a call the night before the assault by
Prosecutor General Monteiro to Reinado, in which negotiations
lasted for a couple of hours, with Ramos-Horta and Rerden
listening quietly in on speaker phone. Finally, Ramos-Horta got
fed up with the dialogue and gestured to Monteiro to cut off the
dialogue. The assault came a few hours later.

U.S. Officials Offer Support, Caution

13. (C) CDA reiterated to Rerden and Twomey that the USG fully
supports ISF and Australian policy in this operation and that we
will work in close cooperation with them. We cited how we have
conveyed the importance of Reinado surrendering, and our support
for the GOET/ISF operation, in all our meetings. We also
conveyed how we are rebuffing overtures to communicate with
Reinado and the petitioners (F-FDTL soldiers dismissed last year
after they complained of discrimination in the military) in
order to not jeopardize the ISF operation, and that we will
continue to share information that might be important for that
operation. We shared information from our meetings with the
President, the Bishop, Benevides and others. We did caution
Rerden that his assessment of lack of support for Reinado only
took into account the reaction by such groups as the Movement
for National Unity and Justice (MUNJ) and the petitioners, and
immediate visible public reaction; that Reinado might be seen
more as an icon than a hero, and that apprehension or killing of
Reinado could cause a groundswell of grassroots reaction
triggered by other factors such as disillusionment with the
government and poverty, although no one can predict. We said
our staff would be traveling to western parts of East Timor over
the weekend to take the pulse of the people in order to gauge
support for Reinado and his cause.

© Scoop Media

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