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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Sierra Leone's rescued child soldiers
By Jane Standley in Freetown
More than 80 Sierra Leonean child soldiers have been rescued from a rebel-controlled area by a charity worker.
In a refugee compound inside the British security zone around Freetown the children gave thanks for a miraculous escape.
They are safe now.
The former child soldiers had to walk across the front line from rebel territory to escape being sent back into battle.
The RUF rebels had already snatched some of their friends from their demobilisation camp, so the charity workers who had been caring for them hatched a daring, but dangerous, plan.
"There was fear in their hearts," he said.
"But as we started and we moved for the first one hour, then the second hour, then I started to build hope that we would succeed," he explained.
For three days, boys like Desmond braved attacks, fire-bombs, thirst and hunger.
At 15, he is a true veteran, one of the rebels most vicious fighters since they abducted him, aged only 7.
But he doesn't want to go back to war. "We like it here. We are safe now," he said.
"They give us food and we play football, and we don't want to fight again," Desmond added.
The real fighters
"We would have lost all of them," Kaszibuloh said.
"And then there would have been more atrocities around where they would have been. Because they're the real fighters that the older rebels are using to cause atrocities, harassment, loot and rape," he added.
They cannot be used like child soldiers while they have protection.
But no-one knows how many other children are being forced to the front, in this most dirty of wars.