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The BBC's Mark Doyle in Freetown
"The Sierra Leone rebels have committed widespread attrocities against civilians"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 19:45 GMT 20:45 UK
UN retakes key Sierra Leone town
Sierra Leonean army soldiers, Kamajor militia fighters, and Special Security Police officers on a truck
The army has been working to clear the area around Freetown
United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone say they have retaken the key town of Masiaka which fell to the rebels on Monday night.

Officials said there had been heavy firing between the rebels and Indian and Jordanian units of the UN force, but gave no details of casualties. Sources independent of the UN have also confirmed the rebel defeat.

The UN commander in Sierra Leone told the BBC that his troops had fought their way into Masiaka with heavily-armed tanks and infantry.

According to a UN spokeswoman, peacekeepers are now deployed in strength in the town, which lies at a key crossroads, some 60km (40 miles) east of the capital, Freetown.


A BBC correspondent in Sierra Leone says the retaking of Masiaka marks the first time UN troops there have acted in such a muscular fashion following a series of humiliations at the hands of the rebels in May.

Our correspondent says rebel control of the town would be a significant defeat for the government forces and the UN peacekeeping mission.

Six-hour battle

A senior Sierra Leone military officer had earlier confirmed to the BBC that the rebels took the town after a six-hour battle overnight.

A British army officer working in the west African country said the rebels had established a significant presence.

Masiaka has been the focus of recent activity between pro-government forces and rebels.

In early May, rebels were reported to have taken the town, only to be repelled days later.

Since then, there have been reports that they were continuing to infiltrate the area.

There has also been in-fighting around the town between competing factions of the Sierra Leone Army.

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14 May 00 | Africa
Rebels lose Sierra Leone town
12 May 00 | Africa
Foday Sankoh: Rebel leader
13 May 00 | Africa
Above Sierra Leone's front line
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