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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Paras fly home after rescue mission
UK military vehicles
UK troops are keeping up their military presence
UK paratroopers are to fly home to Britain on Monday, just a day after their dramatic freeing of six soldiers held hostage in Sierra Leone.

One of the 150 paratroopers who took part in the rescue mission was killed, and another was seriously hurt, after the force moved in at dawn on the jungle hideouts of the West Side Boys militia.


They have been taken apart by this and hopefully those that remain will see the futility of what they are doing

UK military spokesman
The six freed soldiers, who were held for over two weeks, face tough questioning over why they ventured into the dangerous jungle area, which was widely known to be controlled by their captors.

The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed the rescue operation lasted 10 hours.

UK military spokesman Lieutenant Commander Tony Cramp said the heaviest firefighting came in the first 20 minutes after the Paras launched their surprise raid on board five helicopters.

All the hostages were quickly freed, said Lieutenant Commander Cramp, but the operation was not declared over until 1600 (1600 GMT).

UK military map
The Paras flew into two "drop zones" to launch the raid
"There is a great deal of relief that the operation was successful," he said.

"We always planned on such resistance. It is known that the West Side Boys have used deadly force in the past.

"They have been taken apart by this and hopefully those that remain will see the light and see the futility of what they are doing."

The three women among the 25 militia casualties had all been fighters, not bystanders, Lieutenant Commander Cramp added.

The group's leader, Foday Kallay, has said he regrets the kidnapping, and his militia is now a spent force.

He is said to have given a long statement to Sierra Leonean police, claiming he did not fight during the raid and was terrified when he saw the British helicopters appear over the horizon.

Terrified

An eyewitness has told the BBC that Kallay claims he laid low during the raid, and then gave himself up for arrest.

British military officers have been seen at the police station where he is being held.

Our correspondent in Freetown, Mark Doyle, says Kallay's capture has been welcomed by most Sierra Leoneans, who had been terrified of his militia.

Large parts of the country remain in the hands of the main rebel group, the RUF, leaving no immediate end in sight to the country's wider conflict.

map
The hostages were held in the Occra Hills
UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on Monday that he was deeply saddened by the death of the paratrooper, but with the West Side Boys' leadership behind bars, and their headquarters destroyed, Sierra Leone could be one step closer to stability.

He insisted that the UK's commitment to Sierra Leone was undiminished.

The debriefing of the six freed hostages was due to take place on Monday, with the soldiers expected to face tough questions about how they came to be captured in the first place.

"They were all physically and mentally exhausted yesterday but they are all in a lot better spirits today and they will be given a chance to recount some of what happened," said Lieutenant Commander Cramp.

The name of the UK paratrooper killed in the rescue has not been released.

The seriously injured man is said to be a comfortable condition after undergoing surgery at a medical field unit.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"The six British soldiers have undergone medical checks"
The BBC's James Robbins reports
"The political temperature is certainly rising in London"
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
"They were in a dangerous area and we want to know precisely why"
Sierra Leone in crisis

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11 Sep 00 | Africa
30 Aug 00 | Africa
29 Aug 00 | Africa
30 Aug 00 | N Ireland
11 Sep 00 | UK Politics
11 Sep 00 | Africa
11 Sep 00 | Africa
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