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The BBC's Jane Standley
"The most dirty of wars"
 real 28k

Monday, 29 May, 2000, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Sierra Leone army takes key town
Sierra Leone soldiers
The army is pushing out towards the east
The Sierra Leone army says that its forces have recaptured the important town of Lunsar from rebels.

Lunsar is located 80 kilometres (50 miles) north-east of Freetown on a major highway that leads from the capital to the rebel-held town of Makeni and the rest of the diamond-rich east of the country.

"Lunsar has been liberated. It happened today, early today," military spokesman Major John Milton told reporters.

Lunsar and Port Loko have been scenes of heavy fighting over the past weeks between government forces and rebels of the Revolutionary United Front, RUF.

Major Milton also said pro-government troops were advancing towards the northern town of Kambia, near the Guinean border.

More regional troops

The news of Sierra Leonean military advances came as West African heads of state, meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, decided to send 3,000 more soldiers to Sierra Leone to support United Nations peacekeepers.

Foday Sankoh after his capture
The captured rebel leader could be moved out of Sierra Leone
The West African leaders also agreed that RUF leader Foday Sankoh "would be taken out of Sierra Leone to be kept in a safer place".

President Kabbah said last week that charges were being prepared against Mr Sankoh and he would be tried soon.

But Liberian President Charles Taylor - who is widely believed to wield considerable influence over the rebels - described the plans for a Sankoh trial as "foolish".

Hostage drama ends

President Taylor has been instrumental in arranging for the release of UN hostages by the rebels.

Earlier, the UN said all peacekeepers who were being held hostages by rebels in Sierra Leone had been released.

UN spokesman David Wimhurst said the last 85 detained peacekeepers had been freed and were now in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, waiting to go back to Sierra Leone.

Mr Wimhurst said four peacekeepers who remained unaccounted for were probably among a group of bodies found last week.

He expressed hope that the releases showed the RUF were ready to consider a peace deal.

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See also:

29 May 00 | Africa
More troops for Sierra Leone
27 May 00 | Africa
Sankoh trial 'very foolish'
12 May 00 | Africa
Foday Sankoh: Rebel leader
17 May 00 | Africa
What now for Sankoh?
26 May 00 | Africa
Still open for diamond business
27 May 00 | UK Politics
UK troops 'out by June'
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