Sierra Leone hostages celebrate their freedom

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE FOUR British aid workers captured by an armed faction in the jungle of Liberia were enjoying their first day of freedom in eastern Guinea yesterday before being flown to Conakry, the capital.

Dr Mike Roe, 33, from London, midwife Sara Nam, 30, of Carmarthen, west Wales, and logistics expert David Heed, 26, of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, had all been working for Merlin, an emergency medical aid charity, while Peter Colenso, 28, an education expert from Surrey, was employed by the US-based International Rescue Committee.

A 12-seat plane chartered by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was sent to Kissidougou, the nearest safe airstrip to the Liberian border, to bring them to the capital. "I understand they were never subjected to violence and their captors were courteous and polite all the time," said Alain Decoux, who is co-ordinating the airlift.

The four Britons will fly to Conakry where they will be offered 48 hours of counselling and given the choice of returning to Liberia or flying home. Mr Decoux said the group had been captured after it was separated from 80 to 90 Liberian UN workers.

Joan Colenso and Agnes Nam, mothers of two of the captives, expressed their relief last night. The news was like bursting "a huge bubble of pressure and worry", said Ms Colenso.

The kidnapping was the latest in a series of hostage crises in West Africa. This month, five British officers and 35 others were taken hostage in Sierra Leone and nine Britons were abducted in three incidents in the southern Delta region of Nigeria. The officers and four of the Britons kidnapped in Nigeria were released unharmed, but the remaining five are still missing.