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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Sierra Leone sports team 'on run'
Sierra Leone soldiers
The end of the civil war still leaves a grim legacy
Athletes from Sierra Leone - who competed in the recent Commonwealth Games - are reportedly in hiding after refusing to return home.

Only nine of the 30-strong Sierra Leone team who travelled to the games in the UK city of Manchester have gone back.

A senior official in the capital, Freetown, has branded the behaviour of the missing athletes as "a national disgrace".


Instead of concentrating on the games, they were busy planning how to ... go into hiding

Henry Rhodes, Sports Council official

The country has seen the end of a bloody civil war which left up to 200,000 people dead over 10 years.

Sierra Leone's Minister of Sport, Dennis Bright, said the athletes had put their country in an embarrassing position.

A BBC correspondent in Sierra Leone says Mr Bright has taken the disappearance of the team members personally.

Mystified

He made strenuous efforts to obtain visas for the athletes from the British High Commission.

And Permanent Secretary Edward Surrur said the team's decision to go into hiding in Britain was "a national disgrace for Sierra Leone".

The athletes' disappearance has mystified other team members who did return.

High jumper Sarian Koneh, said: "I don't know why my colleagues decided to go into hiding."

National Sport Council official Henry Rhodes said the reported escape seemed to have been organised.

He told the AFP news agency: "Instead of concentrating on the games, they were busy planning how to abandon the games and go into hiding."

"I am not responsible for the bad performance of the team," he added.


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16 Jan 02 | Africa
10 Jul 02 | Africa
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20 May 02 | Africa
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16 Aug 02 | England
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