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The BBC's Mike Donkin in Freetown
"He was last seen 12 days ago"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 May, 2000, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
UK worker missing in Sierra Leone
British troops
British troops are searching for Alan Smith
A search has been launched for a British aid worker missing in strife-torn Sierra Leone for the last 11 days, the Foreign Office has said.


We don't know whether he has been taken yet or not

Foreign Office
Alan Smith, 55, from Birmingham, was last seen in the West African state on 9 May.

British forces in the country's capital Freetown have been alerted and, along with Sierra Leone police and Unamsil - a United Nations mission - are frantically trying to find him.

It is believed he had been working in rebel-held territory but it is unclear whether he was kidnapped by rebel forces, the Foreign Office said.

British forces strengthened

The incident comes as the United Nations Security Council endorsed plans to expand its peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone by an additional 2,000 troops.

British forces in Sierra Leone have also been reinforced, with extra artillery guns flown in from offshore.

HMS Ocean
HMS Ocean is carrying 800 marines
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that Alan Smith, from the Birmingham area, is missing in Sierra Leone, but we don't know whether he has been taken yet or not.

"UNAMSIL have been informed, as have the Sierra Leone police who are all looking for him, and the British forces in Freetown have been informed too.

"He is believed missing. The last time he was seen was on 9 May.

"I don't know precisely where he had been, but I understand that he had been to visit a project that they were running outside Freetown.

"All the groups informed are looking for him. That step has already been taken."

Mr Smith's family had been informed of his disappearance, but would not be flying out there, she added.

Royal Navy collision

Two Sierra Leonean fishermen are missing after a collision between their boat and a British navy landing craft.

The accident happened in the early hours of Saturday close to the shore of central Freetown.

Five fishermen were picked up from the sea. UK boats and a helicopter are searching for the missing men.

The landing-craft, manned by Royal Marines, was on a reconnaissance mission from helicopter carrier HMS Ocean.

Sankoh
Rebels want their leader Foday Sankoh released
A British army spokesman said police had still not confirmed exactly how many people were on board the sunken fishing boat, or whether anyone had managed to swim ashore.

Royal Marines have been carrying out rehearsals of beach landings in Sierra Leone in case they are needed to support British paratroops ashore in Freetown.

HMS Ocean, carrying 800 marines and accompanied by four other Royal Navy ships, arrived off the coast of Sierra Leone last weekend, heightening speculation of greater British involvement.

The UK is to provide further assistance in the form of a training programme for Sierra Leone's own army.

More than 300 UN peacekeepers are still missing in the east of Sierra Leone, thought to be held by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

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See also:

19 May 00 | Africa
Rebels accuse Britain
17 May 00 | Africa
UN peacekeepers fly to safety
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