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The BBC's Jim Fish
"Misgivings have been voiced over the disarmament process"
 real 28k

UN spokesman Philip Winslow in Freetown
"The RUF is the group that seized our peacekeepers"
 real 28k

Sheka Masaray, Sierra Leone government advisor
"The people feel betrayed"
 real 28k

Thursday, 4 May, 2000, 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK
Renewed bid to free UN troops
Foday Sankoh
Foday Sankoh denies his troops are holding hostages
Efforts are continuing to secure the release of almost 50 United Nations personnel who the UN says are being held by rebels in Sierra Leone.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the leader of the rebel Revolutionary United Front, Foday Sankoh, was responsible for the actions of his supporters, who killed seven UN staff during clashes.

Mr Sankoh himself has denied that his men are holding any hostages.

The UN says its peacekeeping troops have maintained their presence outside his house.

UN sending envoys

Mr Annan said he had been in touch with regional heads of state who are sending envoys to speak to Mr Sankoh.

He said he hoped those being held would be freed "in very little time from now".

At least seven Kenyan UN peacekeepers were killed and three wounded in clashes with RUF rebels in the past few days.
Kenyan UN
Kenyans comprise the majority of the UN force

Four Russian members of a helicopter crew and a British military observer are among those being held.

Initial reports had suggested that Mr Sankoh pledged to free the peacekeepers following an agreement that he signed after he met Nigerian National Security Adviser Alieu Mohammed.

In a statement in Paris, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed his "outrage at the continuing deliberate attacks on United Nations personnel in Sierra Leone" by the RUF.

Eldred Collins, spokesman for the RUF's political wing, the Revolutionary United Front Party, accused the UN of trying to "derail the hard-won peace Sierra Leoneans have been praying for".

He said the RUF fighters were provoked by UN soldiers who wanted them to surrender their weapons by force.

Mr Collins said the leadership of the RUF "is trying its level best to put things under control as it is totally committed to the Lome Peace Agreement".

The accord, signed last year, requires the rebels to disarm under the supervision of a UN-led force.

Sierra Leone map

Now, the UN is trying to disarm thousands of rebel fighters.

But according to the UN, RUF fighters attacked its soldiers positions in the central towns of Makeni and Magburaka earlier this week.

The clashes coincide with the final departure of the Nigerian-led West African peace-keeping force, which reinstated the country's President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in 1998.

The rebels, known for their extreme brutality during the country's civil war, have been slow to disarm and still control areas in the north and the east of the former British colony.

An estimated 15,000 RUF gunmen still control the rebel heartland, which stretches across to the fabulously wealthy diamond areas in the east of Sierra Leone.

Facing them is the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (Unamsil), which comprises about 8,000 troops in a force that is planned eventually to number over 11,000.

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10 Apr 00 | Africa
UN attacked in Sierra Leone
14 Mar 00 | Africa
Sierra Leone rebels thwart UN
01 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Farewell to the general
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