BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
UN investigates hostage crisis
UN soldiers
The crisis damaged the UN's credibility in Sierra Leone
By Mark Doyle in Freetown

Senior United Nations officials are visiting Sierra Leone to find out what went wrong with the largest peacekeeping operation in the world, when over 500 of its soldiers were taken hostage by rebels.

The near total collapse of the peacekeeping mission severely damaged UN credibility.

The operation was only saved by the intervention of British troops, who took up positions around the capital, Freetown, so allowing the UN to begin re-deploying in some rural areas.


British paratroopers
British troops intervened to take up positions around Freetown
Although most of the UN troops taken hostage have now been freed, over 200 others - mostly Indian troops and a small number of unarmed military observers, including a British major - remain surrounded by rebels in the east of Sierra Leone and are effectively confined to their bases.

The top investigating team from UN headquarters in New York is travelling to government-held areas outside the capital.

Flying by helicopter because the roads are far too dangerous, the team will gather information about the tense stand-off between UN troops and rebels in the diamond-mining eastern region of the country.

The team is not expected to meet these isolated troops directly. UN officials in Freetown are careful not to describe the mainly-Indian soldiers as hostages, but they are surrounded by rebels and restricted to their bases.

Show of strength

UN and British hostage negotiators are believed to be in regular radio contact with the isolated units and talks with the rebels are said to be going smoothly.

Although this situation is of serious concern to the UN, the arrival of the investigating team also coincided with the most positive step the UN mission has made for months.

Around 500 combat-ready peacekeepers sought to reverse earlier setbacks by moving towards the rebel front line in a show of strength.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

02 Jun 00 | Africa
UN troops retake key junction
27 May 00 | UK Politics
UK troops 'out by June'
01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Army defends Sierra Leone leaflets
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories