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Rebel Leader’s Dad May Be Alive

September 27, 1999

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ East Timorese independence leader Jose Alexandre Gusmao’s father, who had been reported killed in a militia rampage almost three weeks ago, is reportedly alive and hiding at a friend’s house in the territory.

Manuel Gusmao, father of independence leader Jose Alexandre ``Xanana″ Gusmao, told the Portuguese daily Publico that he fled his house earlier this month when it was torched by militiamen opposed to East Timorese independence from Indonesia.

Manuel Gusmao, 83, and his wife, Antonia, 77, are in poor health and are crammed into a small bedroom in the friend’s house, Publico reported. Manuel Gusmao told Publico he had breathing difficulties.

He said he wants his son to arrange him transport to Australia, where his son has been staying while he waits to return to East Timor.

``I have no house, son, and you know I’m not to blame for any of this,″ Manuel Gusmao was quoted as saying in a tearful appeal.

He said he had not seen the younger Gusmao for two years and had opposed his involvement in politics.

Reports of Manuel Gusmao’s death emerged on Sept. 7, the day the Indonesian government released his son, granting him amnesty from a 20-year sentence handed down after his capture in 1992. He reportedly wept on hearing that his father had been killed in the violence after East Timorese voters chose independence from Indonesia in an Aug. 30 referendum.

Portugal withdrew from East Timor in 1975, offering it independence. But Indonesia invaded later that year, and the younger Gusmao went to join pro-independence guerrillas in the mountains. He rose through the ranks to become the movement’s leader and is widely expected to become the first president of an independent East Timor.

He was in New York for talks with U.N. officials and was not immediately available for comment.

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