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Monday, 21 August, 2000, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Sankoh 'replaced' as rebel leader
Refugees
The UN's initial efforts failed to restore peace
The government in Sierra Leone says that the main rebel movement, the Revolutionary United Front, now has a new leader, to succeed the detained Foday Sankoh.

It identified him as General Issa Sesay, and said its sources for the information were Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Alpha Omar Konaré, the Malian president.

Both leaders are on a further mission to the capital, Freetown, and to Liberia, to try to restore peace in Sierra Leone.

It is believed that Liberia's President Charles Taylor could play a crucial role in persuading the Sierra Leonean rebels to lay down their arms.

The Sierra Leone statement said that it also planned to release some 170 RUF fighters in what it called the interests of a sustainable peace.

Mr Sankoh, founded the RUF and launched Sierra Leone's civil war in 1991. He is being held in government custody at an unknown location - after being captured in May - and faces trial for human rights offences.

Obasanjo
Obasanjo: Nigeria has a key role to play
General Issa has been the RUF's battlefield commander since his predecessor Sam Bockarie went to Liberia last year.

The UN Security Council recently approved the establishment of a court to try war criminals from Sierra Leone.

Mr Sankoh is expected to be among those indicted, but questions remain over whether an amnesty granted to him as part of last year's peace deal could stand in the way of his trial.

Rebels 'beaten back'

Meanwhile there are reports that pro-government soldiers have resisted a rebel assault on one of the few northern towns that is securely in loyalist hands.

Military sources in Freetown told Reuters news agency that the soldiers had fought off a rebel attack on the town of Kabala, 310km (195 miles) north of Freetown.

Kabala has become a place of refuge for thousands of civilians who have fled rebel-controlled areas in the north.

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See also:

27 Jul 00 | Africa
Analysis: Sankoh under pressure
03 Aug 00 | Africa
Wife's writ to locate Sankoh
17 Jul 00 | Africa
Rescuer died in Leone operation
12 May 00 | Africa
Foday Sankoh: Rebel leader
16 Aug 00 | Africa
Q&A: Charles Taylor on gunrunning
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