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The BBC's Jane Ball
"The rebels are continuing to attack"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 June, 2000, 22:21 GMT 23:21 UK
UN troops retake key junction
Indian peacekeepers at a check point in Freetown
Indian peacekeepers on the streets of Freetown
United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone have retaken a strategic road junction after battling rebels of the Revolutionary United Front.

RUF fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades at an Indian battalion of some 400 troops, but there were no casualties, UN spokesman David Wimhurst said.

The UN soldiers "responded with heavy machine gun fire and have reoccupied Rogberi - which is a very important position for us - and they have dug in defensively," Mr Wimhurst said.

Our presence there will certainly stabilise the area

UN spokesman David Wimhurst

UN troops withdrew from Rogberi early last month after the RUF defied a peace accord and advanced towards the capital Freetown, after taking hundreds of peacekeepers hostage.

The Indian troops were sent to retake the position on Friday. The heavily-armed peacekeepers gave the thumbs-up as their line of white vehicles rumbled east from the capital.

The BBC's West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle says the move is the most significant step the UN mission in Sierra Leone has taken since it suffered the setbacks at the hands of the rebels.

Rogberi Junction lies some 18km (12 miles) west of the key town of Lunsar, on the road to the diamond mines of the east.

Forces loyal to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah captured the strategic town on Monday, only to withdraw on Wednesday as ill-prepared units ran out of ammunition.

Mandate review

The UN is currently reviewing its operations in Sierra Leone. It is sending a seven-strong trouble shooting team headed by former UN Assistant Secretary-General Manfred Eisele to Freetown.

The UN Special Representative in Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, said: "They are coming here to determine what needs to be done... to see that we are able to meet our mandate."



If we are shot we will shoot back

Oluyemi Adeniji, UN Sierra Leone representative
Diplomats said they could not remember such an assessment taking place so early in a UN mission - even in other UN failures in Somalia, Rwanda or Angola.

Mr Adeniji has attracted stiff criticism for the recent debacles of the UN's operation.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has staked UN credibility on the mission in Sierra Leone - now the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world.

He has suggested a need to review the mandate. During a media briefing to international journalists he called for a general robust mandate for UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Army defends Sierra Leone leaflets
27 May 00 | UK Politics
UK troops 'out by June'
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