Thursday, May 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Foday Sankoh captured

FREETOWN, May 17 (Reuters) — Sierra Leone rebel leader Foday Sankoh, whose men are holding hostage some 350 UN peacekeepers in the West African country, was today held in protective custody by British troops after his capture late yesterday.

As diplomatic efforts to free the peacekeepers continued, British paratroops were in action for the first time, killing several rebels in a fire-fight near Freetown’s international airport, and UN and Sierra Leone troops also clashed with rebels in a separate incident further north.

Sankoh, whom UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan holds personally responsible for the breakdown of the 1999 Lome agreement that ended Sierra Leone’s eight-year civil war, was flown by helicopter to the airport after being seized, paraded naked and handed over by Sierra Leone officials.

Sankoh was shot in the foot on the way to the Nigerian Embassy, a witness said.

Sankoh, whose whereabouts had been unknown for the past 10 days, leading to rumours that he was dead, was initially taken to barracks in Freetown but was whisked away after it was surrounded by a mob of thousands baying for his blood.

“This man has caused a lot of trouble. He is a demon who does not deserve to live,’’ said an onlooker. “We should kill that man today.’’

A soldier at the British-held airport said four rebels were killed and a civilian woman was wounded when rebels believed to be from Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacked a paratroop position, about 16 km east of the airport. There were no British casualties.

A UN spokesman told reporters that a Nigerian peacekeeper and six soldiers of the Fledgling Sierra Leone Army were killed in another clash with rebels at Port Loko, north of the capital, late yesterday. Five UN soldiers and five Sierra Leone soldiers were wounded. In Moscow, visiting British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook welcomed the arrest of Sankoh.

“I welcome the news today that the rebel leader has been arrested and is now in detention,’’ Mr Cook told reporters after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Despite Mr Cook’s words, a senior official in the neighbouring Liberia said efforts to free the UN peace-keepers would be complicated by the arrest of Sankoh.

Liberian President Charles Taylor helped negotiate the release of at least 139 peacekeepers earlier this week, and his spokesman, Reginald Goodridge, said the release of the remainder and the whole peace process in Sierra Leone could now be endangered.

In Freetown, however, the commander of the UN force said he expected fresh releases by Sankoh’s rebels.

Major-General Vijay Kumar Jetley told reporters that many detained peacekeepers were on Sierra Leone’s border with Liberia, waiting to be handed over.

“I think the peacekeepers are already being released in Liberia,’’ he said, explaining that he was not referring to the 139 released on Sunday. “The Liberian President is working on that already and many are on the border already, the process has already started on getting them released.’’

General Jetley welcomed Sankoh’s reappearance. “Now at least they (the rebels) have got a leader. Earlier they were doing things in isolation,’’ he said.

NEW DELHI (UNI): The second batch of Indian troops arrived at Lungi International Airport in Sierra Leone yesterday as part of the 1,500 strong contingent to reinforce the UN peace-keeping mission in the war-torn West African nation, an army spokesman today said.

India has announced that 1,500 soldiers would be sent to Sierra Leone as reinforcement for the UNAMSIL. The first batch of 150 soldiers including 50 officers had already left for Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) continue to hold 23 Indian soldiers, including two officers and a JCO captive in Kuiva. The rebels had released 11 Indian soldiers on Sunday out of the 35 they had abducted. One soldier had been released earlier.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | In Spotlight |
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |