Armored U.N. vehicles guarded East Timor's leaders Tuesday under a state of emergency declared after rebel soldiers critically wounded the Nobel Peace Prize-winning 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 two top leaders and demanded an outside investigation. But the U.N. 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 Tuesday he was "extremely lucky to be alive" after they operated for three hours to remove bullet fragments and repair chest wounds.
"His condition remains extremely serious but by the same token, stable," Dr. Len Notaros, the general manager of the Royal Darwin Hospital, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
East Timor, a poor Southeast Asian nation of 1-million people, won independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot. It has struggled to achieve stability since an outbreak of violence in 2006, when 37 people were killed in clashes between rival security forces.