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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Captured leader 'regrets' kidnap
Members of the militia group, the West Side Boys
The West Side Boys may find it impossible to regroup
The 24-year-old captured leader of the Sierra Leonean militia group, the West Side Boys, has said he regrets the kidnapping of six British soldiers which led to Sunday's raid.

Speaking to journalist Lansana Fofana, the self-styled Brigadier Foday Kallay said his militia was a spent force. Twenty-five members were killed and 18 were captured in the jungle battle, including Foday Kallay's girlfriend.

Foday Kallay, wearing a Calvin Klein T-shirt and no trousers, told Mr Fofana he did not believe in violence any more and that given the chance he would like to become a politician.

"He was very downcast and very troubled," said Mr Fofana.

But the Sierra Leonean Government has said it will put Mr Kallay on trial over the kidnap. There are also grounds for trying him for murder, rape, extortion and robbery.

Mr Kallay could face the death penalty, along with two other jailed leaders, Brigadier Bomb Blast and Brigadier 55 - whose freedom was one of the conditions for releasing the British hostages.

Record of violence

The West Side Boys are no longer linked to the rebel Revolutionary United Front, but two years ago they took part in the killing and mutilation of civilians when they fought with RUF during a raid on Freetown.

Public opinion is largely against the militias, who are accused of rape and of stealing goats and chickens from villages.

Until the capture of British soldiers, the West Side Boys, a small ill-disciplined group with a reputation for taking drugs and alcohol, were largely ignored by the United Nations, the Sierra Leonean Government and Britain. This is because they were part of the coalition against the RUF, with their former leader Johnny Paul Koroma in the cabinet.

The militiamen were keen to join the new British-trained army, though they frequently stole guns and ammunition from government troops and set up roadblocks on the main road out of the capital Freetown.

Amongst their demands in exchange for freeing the British hostages were a safe passage out of Sierra Leone and an education abroad.

Before the British raid, Foday Kallay had told relatives he was afraid that if he freed the hostages his fighters would be open to attack from the government army or the UN. And in the interview with Mr Fofana, he said the group had been about to release the hostages, though they had been afraid of arrest.

Those fears have now been realised. The group's leadership is broken and the UN says it will pursue and shoot any West Side boys who refuse to disarm.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Journalist Lansana Fofana
"I know he was trying to save his face"
Sierra Leone in crisis

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10 Sep 00 | Africa
30 Aug 00 | Africa
29 Aug 00 | Africa
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