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Westerners Flee Sierra Leone

December 25, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Two British air force transport planes evacuated 81 British and European citizens, including nine Italian priests, from Sierra Leone on Thursday, the Foreign Office said.

The evacuations were called after fighting intensified between government and rebel forces in the west African state.

A Foreign Office spokesman said that the evacuees, all uninjured, were flown from Lungi airport near Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown to the capital of Senegal, Dakar.

``A majority of them were British, some were from European nations,″ the spokesman said on customary anonymity. ``That’s all the people that wanted to leave this evening.″

The spokesman said the evacuation was a precautionary measure, and that more flights may be arranged.

Refugees have poured into Sierra Leone’s capital this week after fighting intensified between rebel forces and Nigerian-led West African intervention troops based in nearby towns.

Thousands of villagers have lost limbs and others have been killed in attacks apparently carried out by the rebel troops, seeking revenge for their ouster from Freetown by the West African force in February.

That allowed elected President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to return from months in exile after Lt. Col. Johnny Paul Koroma took power in a bloody May 1997 coup.

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