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Sunday, February 14, 1999 Published at 19:04 GMT

World: Africa

Ecomog denies abuse allegations

Ecomog denies its forces were involved in abuses

The West African intervention force in Sierra Leone, Ecomog, has denied allegations by the UN that it has carried out summary executions.

Sierra Leone
A United Nations report on Friday blamed rebel forces for most of the atrocities during an attack on Sierra Leone's capital Freetown last month, but also accused the Nigerian-led intervention force of carrying out executions.

A spokesman for Ecomog, Lieutenant Chris Olukolade, is reported as saying he was not aware of any such killings.

He said Ecomog had no mandate to execute anyone, and its soldiers had always exercised restraint.

The UN document said that there had been reports that the West African peacekeeping force Ecomog had been "summarily executing detainees who were allegedly either rebels or rebel sympathisers".

Casualty figure not known

Jon Leyne reports: Much of the killing was entirely arbitrary
The report also said that the actual number of civilian casualties suffered during last month's attack on Freetown would never be known, although one mortuary worker said on 25 January that over 2,000 bodies of men, women and children had already been disposed of.

A large number of bodies were believed to have been left in ruined buildings or to have been hastily buried on waste ground.

Since rebel forces had renewed their offensive against Sierra Leone's democratically elected government in December, conservative estimates put the total casualty figure at between 3,000 and 5,000, said the UN report.

[ image: Many rebel soldiers were children, the report said]
Many rebel soldiers were children, the report said
It says the rape of women and girls appears to have been standard practice for the rebels.

Many of the soldiers on the rebel side were children, with some as young as eight.

Although human rights violations by the Nigerian-led Ecomog force and Sierra Leone's Civil Defence Forces did not match the scale of rebel atrocities, they were nonetheless totally unacceptable, the report said.

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