UK sends aid to Sierra Leone

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN SAID yesterday it was giving pounds 1m of "logistical" and other support to the government of Sierra Leone and the Nigerian-led force that is combating a rebel advance on the capital, Freetown.

"This further assistance to the government of Sierra Leone and Ecomog is a demonstration of our commitment to help bring stability to Sierra Leone and promote democracy in that country and more widely in Africa," said the Foreign Office minister Tony Lloyd.

A spokesman said two-thirds of the aid would go directly to the Ecomog forces resisting the rebels, and would include medical supplies, spares and transport equipment.

The rebels reached Hastings airport, on the eastern outskirts of Freetown, at the weekend. Nigerian warplanes were in action yesterday to prevent them entering the capital. An Ecomog spokesman said Alpha jets had bombed rebels in a mountain cave hide-out in Mankey, near the airport, and killed more than 100. Nigerian planes were also in action around Lunsar, north of Freetown, and Ecomog troops had retaken the nearby town of Port Loko, the spokesman said.

The insurgents are renegade soldiers and guerrillas loyal to a military junta evicted from Freetown by Ecomog in February, 10 months after a coup against the democratically elected president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

Ecomog reinstated Mr Kabbah in March but the rebels regrouped and launched a new campaign after their leader, Foday Sankoh, was sentenced to death for treason in October.

Both Ecomog and the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone have discounted any rebel takeover of the capital, but the insurgents still hold sway in the north of the country and are controlling the northern provincial capital, Makeni, which they retook from Ecomog last week.