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Sunday, 28 July, 2002, 05:58 GMT 06:58 UK
British troops to leave Sierra Leone
Training recruits
A small force will stay on to train the local army

British troops are due to complete their withdrawal from Sierra Leone on Sunday after a mission which helped end the country's 10-year civil war.

The British Government is satisfied that its military presence in the country can be reduced now that peaceful elections have taken place.

Over the past fortnight, the troops have been withdrawing from operations.

President of Sierra Leone, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
The President of Sierra Leone, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah casts his vote

They leave behind more than 100 British officers who will remain in the country to train the Sierra Leone army.

The departure of some 200 troops, along with their support ship, Sir Geraint, will certainly cause concern amongst ordinary Sierra Leonians.

In itself, the ship's presence in Freetown Harbour has been a symbol of British intervention in Sierra Leone, which, in conjunction with a huge United Nations peacekeeping force, proved crucial in ending the civil war.

A British army presence here is seen by many as a guarantee of continued security.

New government

Understandably, Captain Jonathan Huxley of the Sir Geraint is keen to dampen down the concern.

He is eager to point out that Britain is not totally withdrawing from Sierra Leone - it is merely reducing its military presence because, he says, it is no longer needed.

Peace was declared in January this year, and since then, Sierra Leone has held elections, and formed a new government.

The much-improved security situation now means that the British soldiers who will continue to train the Sierra Leone army no longer need protection.

Consequently, the company of British Ghurkhas who were providing that protection have just left and a logistics support ship will leave on Sunday.

But Britain will undoubtedly maintain a strong interest in Sierra Leone, not least because its military intervention here two years ago can be lauded as one of Britain's greatest foreign policy successes in recent years.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom McKinley
"Over 100 British officers will remain to train the Sierra Leone army"
See also:

16 Jan 02 | Africa
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25 Jun 02 | Country profiles
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