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Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 07:31 GMT

World: Africa

Peace force faces executions inquiry

Peacekeepers are accused of summary executions

Members of the West African peace-keeping force in Sierra Leone have been questioned after reports of civilians being summarily executed, a United Nations official says.

Sierra Leone
The UN envoy for children in armed conflict, Olara Otunnu, said two senior generals with the Nigerian-led force had acknowledged excesses and promised swift action against anyone found guilty.

He said: "[The generals] have arrested about 100 of their men who are now being, interrogated.

"They welcome any further evidence indicating those who have been involved and have promised to take swift action against them."

Mr Otunnu said UN officials had been assured that excessive force was not sanctioned by leaders of the peacekeeping force, known as Ecomog.

Civilians at risk

A UN human rights report published last week accused peacekeeping troops of executing dozens of civilians suspected of collaborating with rebels.

It said human rights monitors in Sierra Leone's UN observer mission witnessed one execution by the peacekeeping force and said "witnesses of the highest probity" reported that they were present at others.

The report said: "Witnesses make clear that the interrogation process was entirely inadequate and that there was no real effort to establish the guilt or innocence of execution victims."

The rebels themselves have been accused of killing thousands of civilians in a wave of attacks since December.

More than 3,000 people are believed to have been killed in a wave of rebel attacks since December that have left the capital, Freetown in ruins.

Mr Otunnu condemned the rebel killings and also appealed to rebel leader Foday Sankoh to end the massive use of children as fighters.

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