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Mark Doyle in Freetown
Evacuations continue amid violence
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Vice-Admiral Ian Garnett
The role of British troops
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Barnaby Philips in Sierra Leone
The evacuation operation
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Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Evacuation dilemma for Britons
British troops evacuate families from Sierra Leone
British troops evacuate families from Sierra Leone
As the evacuation of British nationals from Sierra Leone continues, some have decided to stay - despite the spiralling violence.

In the capital, Freetown, the Mamma Yoka Hotel has been a temporary home to dozens of British citizens and other foreign nationals queuing to leave the country.

Guards man the entrance to the hotel as families laden with luggage turned up to be moved out.

About 250 British paratroopers have secured Freetown's international airport.

Chinook helicopters have been shuttling evacuees there before they are flown out to Senegal.

Many of those leaving are aid workers, but some Britons are determined to stay despite the worsening situation.

Reluctant

Graham McKinley, a longterm resident of the country, praised the evacuation operation, saying: "I don't think that what the British High Commission has done is wrong. I think in fact, under the circumstances, it's entirely right and it's been well done."



From what I've seen in the last few hours, I don't yet think this is serious enough for us to go, but I'm keeping my options well open

Graham McKinley, British citizen

But he added: "A lot of us have businesses here. We've been here a long time and we've seen this several times before.

"From what I've seen in the last few hours, I don't yet think this is serious enough for us to go. But I'm keeping my options well open."

Among those who were intending to go, there was criticism of the failed UN operation in Sierra Leone.

One British citizen said: "It didn't fill us with a great deal of confidence. They seemed to be unaware of the nature of the people they were dealing with."

Vic Smith, from Yorkshire, who has been working on a construction contract for the UN told the Times he wanted to stay.

He said: "I'm not happy about this. I would have stayed in my flat and have been perfectly happy. None of the Brits, as far as I can see, wanted to leave."

British operation

More British Paras have been flying into Sierra Leone to help the evacuation, with all 700 of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment expected to be in place by the end of Tuesday.


Families leaving Sierra Leone
Families prepare to leave

They will fly out up to 500 British citizens in Sierra Leone who may want to be evacuated, with 400 Commonwealth and EU citizens for whom Britain has responsibility.

Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett, chief of joint operations, who has operational command of the British forces deployed in Sierra Leone, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Our current role is quite clear cut, it is to protect the lives of British citizens in Sierra Leone and others for whom we have responsibility and now to evacuate them to a place of safety.

"While we are evacuating UK citizens and others, we can of course help reinforcement of the United Nations force while we are securing Lungi airport, in carrying out our prime role."

He acknowledged that the British troops could be in place for several weeks. Nor did he rule out a broader role for the troops, if ministers decided that was appropriate.

The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said that most British nationals had already been contacted and that the emergency evacuation was proceeding "smoothly".

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See also:

18 Oct 99 | Africa
US push for Sierra Leone peace
23 Oct 99 | Africa
UN approves Sierra Leone force
10 Apr 00 | AudioVideo
UN forces in Sierra Leone attacked
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