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Xanana Gusmao ... state of emergency declared for 30 days.

Xanana Gusmao ... state of emergency declared for 30 days. (ABC TV)

Gusmao assumes emergency powers

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has declared a state of emergency and taken sole command of the armed forces and internal security.

Mr Gusmao's announcement comes after he spent two days in discussion with the country's Council of State at the presidential palace.

President Gusmao says the state of emergency will last for 30 days.

He says that during that period the authorities, including foreign forces, would have the power to stop large gatherings of people, demand identity papers, carry out surveillance and seize weapons, ammunition and explosives.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri will remain in office but with severely curtailed powers.

The President says he reserves the right to declare more severe measures under a state of siege if necessary.

Earlier, the East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta says it is inevitable that some of the country's politicians will resign in the aftermath of this week's violence.

Horrific attack

An East Timorese woman has suffered a horrific attack in communal fighting in Dili.

Doctors at Dili's national hospital say the 35-year-old woman had three fingers cut off one hand, and an ear sliced in half, apparently by a machete.

Her skull was also fractured badly.

Doctors from the hospital say the only other casualty today was a man with gunshot wounds.

Documents stolen

Meanwhile, looters in East Timor have stolen documents from the country's criminal archive, including information on the massacres which followed its declaration of independence seven years ago.

While the theft ocurred against a backdrop of widespread looting, reports from East Timor say the removal of the documents was politically motivated.

Despite today's violence and looting, Australian commander Lieutenant-Colonel Mick Mumford says the security situation has stabilised.

"We can't put a soldier on every street corner in every suburb but we have soldiers that are in and out of every suburb," he said.

"As an example on Sunday we had about 72 reports of shots being fired in and around Dili, but yesterday we had only five reports of shots being fired."


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Timeline: Unrest in East Timor

Key dates in East Timor's journey to independence and subsequent unrest.

In pictures: Crisis in East Timor

Pictures of the unrest in East Timor.


Audio Related Images

Audio Related Audio

Despite the heavy Australian troop presence, violence is continuing between opposing ethnic gangs in East Timor.

ABC foreign affairs editor Peter Cave was recording sound as two opposing gangs squared up on one of central Dili's main thoroughfares, while half a dozen houses went up in flames.

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