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article imageFormer East Timor guerrilla killed in security operation

By AFP     Aug 9, 2015 in World

An East Timor former guerrilla leader has been killed in a clash with police and troops, the government said Sunday, urging calm in the half-island nation.

Mauk Moruk died Saturday after a joint police and military operation in the town of Fatulia in Harare province, a government spokesman said in a statement.

"Every effort was made during the operation to avoid this outcome," it said.

"Regrettably the Joint Operation... was unable to avoid... confrontation in the area of Fatulia resulting in an exchange of gunfire."

The spokesman added that there were "two other fatalities and a number of injuries" but did not identify them.

"The Government urges all citizens to remain calm".

Moruk had often challenged independence hero Xanana Gusmao -- who had been both president and premier during the first decade of East Timor's independence -- over ways to tackle poverty.

Gusmao stepped down as prime minister this year, but has stayed on as a minister in the new government to try to ensure a smooth transition.

The government said in a statement in May that the joint operation began in March following attacks on police, including a March 8 attack on a police compound by a group equipped with firearms and explosives which left four security personnel injured.

It described Moruk's group as illegal and said the joint operation was to "prevent and suppress criminal actions from illegal groups".

A significant number of the group's members had surrendered, the statement said.

East Timor gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a long and bloody struggle against occupation.

The young democracy has suffered bouts of unrest in the past, although recent years have been largely peaceful -- allowing UN peacekeepers finally to leave the country in 2012.

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