Australian soldiers arrest East Timor’s rebel leader

Maj. Alfredo Reinado was among 22 people detained Tuesday night for illegal possession of weapons, Australian Army Brig. Gus Gilmore told reporters in the Australian capital Canberra, the AP reports.

The troops seized 11 handguns and a "significant amount of ammunition" from the men, he said.

Reinado will appear in court within 72 hours, Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro said.

The arrest of the rebel leader, who turned some weapons over to Australian peacekeepers in mountains near Dili last month, came the day after the expiration of a gun amnesty designed to contain the recent violence.

Reinado was the most senior of some 600 soldiers dismissed from the army after they went on strike complaining of discrimination. He and others left the force without handing in their weapons.

The fighting between soldiers ballooned into widespread street violence that killed at least 30 people and drove 150,000 from their homes before Australian, Portuguese, Malaysian and New Zealand forces were invited into East Timor by the government to restore peace.

Reinado was a vocal critic of Alkatiri, who stepped down last month to take responsibility for the violence.

Authorities have not tried to arrest him since he deserted the army and President Xanana Gusmao has always refused to criticize his actions, leading some to question whether his rebellion was part of wider moves to get rid of Alkatiri.