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E. Timor's Ramos-Horta out of coma

  • Story Highlights
  • Deputy PM: "First words was to mention ... to look after the people of East Timor"
  • Ramos-Horta faces possibility of further surgery
  • Rebel soldiers, led by Maj. Alfredo Reinado, blamed for attack
  • Investigation continues into assassination attempt
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From Saeed Ahmed
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(CNN) -- East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta has regained consciousness and spoken to family members after emerging from an induced coma following an assassination attempt, the country's deputy prime minister told CNN Thursday.

"One of his first words was to mention to his close relatives to look after the people of East Timor," Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres told CNN. "Even in his critical condition, his mind is still with the people of East Timor, and we're very proud to have a president like this."

Ramos-Horta slowly woke up on Wednesday at the Australian hospital where he is recuperating. But it may be another month before he is discharged and several more months for him to fully recover, Guterres said.

The president was "aware" of the circumstances that led to his hospitalization, but doctors and family members have not brought up the assassination attempt, Guterres said.

"Since there is no interest in stimulating him very much under the circumstances he is in now, people are not asking questions," Guterres said. "They are just there showing solidarity and friendship."

On February 11, gunmen in the capital Dili shot Ramos-Horta in the back twice, with one of the bullets tearing through his abdomen. The attackers also ambushed Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on the same day, but he escaped unhurt.

The 58-year-old Ramos-Horta was flown to the Royal Darwin Hospital in Darwin, Australia, where doctors performed reconstructive surgery to repair the bullet wounds. He faces the possibility of additional surgeries.

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An investigation continues into the assassination attempt, Guterres said.

"I think we have to wait until the end of the investigation in order to give full account of what happened and to bring to justice those who were behind it," he said. "The people of East Timor need to know."

Ramos-Horta shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Carlos Belo, bishop of East Timor, in 1996 for work on behalf of East Timorese during the country's quarter-century occupation by Indonesia.

Since the attacks, Australia has sent more than 200 troops and police to help stabilize East Timor. They reinforce an international stabilization force of about 1,000 soldiers from Australia, Malaysia, Portugal and New Zealand that have been in East Timor since it gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.

The attack has been blamed on rebel soldiers led by Maj. Alfredo Reinado, who was killed in the assault, along with another attacker and a presidential bodyguard.

The Australian-trained former head of East Timor's police, Reinado became the leader of disaffected soldiers and was wanted as a fugitive at the time of the presidential attack. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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