Peacekeepers claim victory in Freetown

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The Independent Online
DIPLOMATS WERE last night attempting to end fighting in Sierra Leone after West African peacekeepers, aided by re- inforcements, said they had driven rebels from State House and were chasing them out of private residences in the capital, Freetown.

Six days into the latest rebel challenge to the elected government of the diamond-rich West African country, diplomats from across the regionjoined in efforts to end the fighting.

On the ground, random shooting since last Wednesday has claimed an untold number of lives, including that of an Associated Press television producer, Myles Tierney, 34. A Canadian colleague, Ian Stewart, 32, was seriously wounded

Deprived of electricity and water, and faced with dwindling stocks of food, residents of Freetown were reportedly still keeping off the streets yesterday.

Last night, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) deplored the ``incessant'' violence in Freetown and said more than 180 people had sought refuge at the ICRC compound in the capital. It said residents were trapped in their homes without food and were unable ``even to bury the dead''.

"The rebels are now being pushed out of Freetown,'' said a statement from the 16-nation Economic Community of West African states (Ecowas) which funds Ecomog, the Nigerian-commanded regional intervention force.

Ecomog troops, supporting Sierra Leone's elected president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, have been battling rebels for control of Freetown's centre. "Ecomog has successfully taken control of State House. Efforts are being made to flush the rebels out of private residences in Freetown where some of them are still taking refuge," the statement added.

Ecowas said its secretary-general, Lansana Kouyate, would travel to Lome, capital of Togo, today for regional talks. The Togolese and Ivory Coast foreign ministers have already met President Kabbah and the rebels' jailed leader, Foday Sankoh. The commander of the rebel forces, Sam Bockarie, has rejected a ceasefire unless Mr Sankoh is released.