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Tony Smith reports for BBC News
"The country is still awash with weapons, many of them in the hands of children"
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Thursday, 25 November, 1999, 17:01 GMT
Minister survives Sierra Leone shootout
Kenyan peacekeepers in Nairobi The arrival of the UN peacekeepers has been delayed

By West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle

A government minister in Sierra Leone was involved in a shooting incident on Wednesday night in the top hotel in the capital, Freetown.

Sierra Leone
Two people, including a Nigerian soldier serving in the West African peacekeeping force Ecomog, were badly wounded in the shooting.

The incident occurred late at night in the Cape Sierra hotel - the only luxury hotel still functioning in the capital - where Trade Minister Mike Lamin lives.

And it illustrates that despite the ceasefire signed earlier this year between the government and rebels, widespread insecurity has been caused by the decade-long war.

Violent argument

Late on Wednesday night the minister invited a visitor into his room, only for a violent argument to break out, according to reliable sources in the hotel.

The minister's Nigerian bodyguard entered the room to investigate the shouting and was shot in the stomach by the visitor who used a pistol. One other person was also hit.

The minister escaped injury by jumping through the window.

The assailant has been detained and both the Nigerian military and the Sierra Leone police are investigating the incident.

Criminal actions such as this one are not uncommon in a shaky post-war situation where there is still widespread distrust amongst former combatants.

UN deployment

The situation is also not helped by the very slow deployment of a 6,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force which is supposed to foster confidence and security.

A first contingent of Kenyan peacekeepers was due to arrive on Monday, but now their deployment has been delayed for logistical reasons.

Some Freetown residents say the speedy deployment of the UN force is essential if any sense of normality can be restored.

On the other hand, the planned UN deployment is also raising expectations which may prove false
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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Africa
British clean-up for Sierra police
22 Nov 99 |  Africa
Sierra Leone rebels form political party
28 May 99 |  Africa
Sierra Leone ceasefire 'holding'
24 May 99 |  Africa
Analysis: Battle to rebuild shattered Sierra Leone
11 Jan 99 |  Sierra Leone
A country torn by conflict
13 Feb 99 |  Africa
Grim facts of Sierra Leone's war

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