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Sierra Leone Balks at 'Drastic Action' Against Captured Rebel

May 19, 2000|Associated Press

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Calling captured rebel leader Foday Sankoh "a very vicious man," Sierra Leone's attorney general said Thursday that the government is nonetheless determined to resist pressure from angry citizens to take drastic action against him.

Many Sierra Leoneans want Sankoh harshly punished for wreaking havoc on the country during more than eight years of civil war. His Revolutionary United Front rebels recently plunged the nation into renewed crisis and were holding hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers captive.

U.S. envoy Jesse Jackson, meanwhile, arrived in Nigeria on a mission from President Clinton to help put the peace effort back on track.

Despite the current fighting, Sierra Leone's beleaguered government has been reluctant to exclude Sankoh from talks to resolve the conflict.

"No views have yet been crystallized as to what to do," said Solomon Berewa, the justice minister and attorney general. "Foday Sankoh committed a lot of crimes. He himself is a very vicious man and has a lot of vicious boys around him."

Berewa said the government would resist pressure by angry citizens to "take drastic action" against Sankoh, seized Wednesday by militiamen.

The United Nations said the rebels freed 80 peacekeepers Wednesday, but it revised the figure Thursday to just 13, according to U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst. The rebels are still holding nearly 340 U.N. captives.

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