Rebels free hostages but Britons still held

REBELS HOLDING five British officers and 29 others in Sierra Leone released six of their hostages yesterday, but there was no news about the fate of the other captives held since last Wednesday in the jungle east of the capital, Freetown.

The six released men are all Sierra Leonean civilian drivers. With United Nations military observers, including the Britons, as well as Nigerian peace-keepers and three journalists, they had gone into the rebel-held area to collect freed child prisoners.

Nance Webber, a spokeswoman for the special British and UN negotiating team handling the hostage crisis, said: "All is being done to secure the release of the hostages. We are hopeful but we are not giving it a time-frame.'' The rebel faction holding the hostages in Magbla, some 30 miles from Freetown, is believed to be from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), loyal to former army junta leader, Johnny Paul Koroma, who ruled the country in 1997.

The kidnappers are demanding food, medicines and recognition under a peace accord signed last month. Crucially, they have asked to see Koroma, who they claim is a prisoner of the main rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Between them, the RUF and AFRC control two-thirds of the diamond-rich country, with the government, supported by Nigerian troops, holding only the area around Freetown.

There had been some hope that, after a failed mediation effort by an RUF rebel leader on Friday, the captors would respond to a message from Koroma, broadcast yesterday on the BBC World Service. Koroma, who said in the interview that he was a free man, is believed to be in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

But a source who is in contact with rebels all over the country, said: "[Koroma] could have been speaking with a gun to his head. If he is free, he should be brought to the rebels. Then they will release the captives immediately.'' A UN source said that one option could be to bring Koroma to a "neutral place'' where he could speak to the captors by radio.

Even though their names have not formally been released, the five British officers are believed to be Lt-Col I R Howard-Williams, Major J McEwan, Major M Rawlings, Major G Bradley and Major T Lyall.

Aid agencies pull out of rural areas, page 11

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
voicesBy the man who has
people... and stop them from attacking people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?