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Autopsy of Ex-Rebel Released

Foday Sankoh, former leader of brutal Sierra Leone fighters, died of pneumonia, doctors say.

August 03, 2003|From Times Wire Services

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Pneumonia and other ailments killed former Sierra Leone rebel leader Foday Sankoh, an indicted war-crimes suspect who died in U.N. custody, doctors concluded.

Authorities turned Sankoh's body over to his widow Saturday after the autopsy.

Sankoh, 65, died Tuesday at the U.N. ward of a hospital in Freetown, the capital.

A Libyan-trained guerrilla leader, Sankoh participated in the 1990 rebellion that brought Charles Taylor to power in Liberia, from where Sankoh launched Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front.

Bent on winning the government and diamond fields, his fighters made a trademark of cutting off the hands, feet, lips and ears of men, women and children. Outside intervention crushed the rebels, ending the war in 2002.

Sankoh had suffered a stroke since his capture in 2000. Sierra Leone pathologists listed the causes of death as "respiratory failure, massive pulmonary embolism, deep venous thrombosis and bronchopneumonia."

Hundreds of angry onlookers stood in drizzling rain Saturday to watch the transfer of the body.

"Take his body to hell or give it to us ... to burn his body to ashes," shouted a woman in the crowd.

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