DILI, East Timor - Armored UN vehicles guarded East Timor's leaders yesterday under a state of emergency declared after rebel soldiers critically wounded the Nobel Peace Prize laureate president and fired at the prime minister's convoy.
The army chief blamed the United Nations - which oversees a 1,400-member international police force - for failing to protect the country's leaders and demanded an outside investigation.
But the UN deputy head for East Timor said President Jose Ramos-Horta had wanted his security to be provided by national authorities.
Ramos-Horta was airlifted to an Australian hospital where surgeons said yesterday that he was "extremely lucky to be alive" after they operated for three hours to remove bullet fragments and repair chest wounds.
"Today, East Timorese prosecutors prepared arrest warrants for 18 rebel soldiers accused of being involved in the attacks, and Attorney General Longuinhos Monterio said they would probably be issued later in the day. He declined to give their names. No arrests have been made so far.
East Timor, a poor Southeast Asian nation of 1 million people, won independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a UN-sponsored ballot. It has struggled to achieve stability since an outbreak of violence in 2006.
East Timor's army commander, Taur Matan Ruak, said he wanted to know how foreign forces had failed in providing security.
"How is it possible that cars transporting armed people have entered the city . . . without having been detected?" he said.
But Finn Reske-Nielsen, the UN deputy head for East Timor, said that Ramos-Horta wanted his own security "to be provided by national authorities and therefore there was no UN police protection" during Monday's attack.
Ramos-Horta, who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for nonviolent resistance during 24 years of Indonesian occupation, was shot in the chest and abdomen on the road in front of his house in an apparent coup attempt by a group of disgruntled soldiers.
His guards returned fire, killing wanted rebel leader Alfredo Reinado.
The two-day emergency order, announced by acting President Vicente Gutterres, bans demonstrations, gives police extended powers, and calls for a curfew.