Koresh allows three to go

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The Independent Online
THREE followers of the Branch Davidian sect have been given permission by the sect's leader, David Koresh, to leave the besieged compound, FBI officials said yesterday. One of the three men was an Australian, officials said. They would be the first of more than 100 members of the sect in the compound to be released since last weekend. At least 17 children are still inside.

It was not clear why the three were given permission to go, or what would happen to them once released. The FBI said they had heard about the move in their regular phone calls to the compound, but they did not speak to Mr Koresh about it because he was suffering from a 'severe headache'. He was wounded in the side and the wrist in the shoot-out with agents at the compound on 28 February, and he has not talked directly to the FBI since Tuesday. In his place his deputy, Steve Schneider, an American, has been conducting all the negotiations.

As the siege entered its 12th day the hundreds of armed police, special agents, units of armoured vehicles and tanks that surround the compound were being reinforced with more vehicles, but the FBI would not comment on the movements. For the first time the FBI released a list of 48 people, including 14 Britons, they say have talked to them by phone from inside the compound. The list also included 19 US citizens, five Australians, one New Zealander, one Filipino, one Israeli, and seven of unknown citizenship.

Mr Koresh's mother, Bonnie Haldeman, who is represented by a group of Southern lawyers, was trying without much success to persuade the FBI to let her into the compound. Her lawyers maintain that her son is effectively under arrest because he cannot leave the compound of his own free will, and so is entitled to a lawyer.

Several local mayors expressed their concern that the siege was giving their Texas towns a bad name. On the other hand, Bob Sheehy, the mayor of Waco, said: 'It's very nice for people to know we're here', perhaps with an eye to Waco's hope of becoming a popular conference centre.

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