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Troops Accuse Sierra Leone Rebels

October 7, 1999

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ Regional intervention troops accused Sierra Leone rebels Wednesday of violating the country’s fragile 3-month-old peace accord with a spree of rapes, robberies and highway ambushes.

Lt. Col. Chris Olukolade, spokesman of a Nigerian-led force backing the government, said criminal attacks by rebels against unarmed civilians continued despite the return Sunday of Revolutionary United Front rebel leader Foday Sankoh to join a coalition government in Freetown.

On Monday, rebels reportedly forced a bus to stop on a highway near Masiaka Town, some 25 miles north of Freetown. The attackers raped the women, looted the passengers’ belongings and kidnapped some of the passengers.

Olukolade urged Sankoh to ensure his followers abide by the July 7 peace accord which was signed after eight years of bloody civil war.

``We are registering protest over the cease-fire violations,″ he said.

Members of the feared Sierra Leone rebel group were also terrorizing villages across the border in Liberia’s northern Lofa County with regular raids to steal food and valuables, the independent New Democrat newspaper reported in Monrovia on Wednesday.

Liberia reopened its border with Sierra Leone on Tuesday, a move that aid workers said could prompt a flood of refugees from both war-battered West African countries to return to their respective homelands.

In the latter part of Sierra Leone’s war, Sankoh’s rebels executed a grisly campaign _ killing, raping and mutilating thousands _ in a bid to extend their influence.

The U.N. is considering sending a 6,000-strong force to prevent another bloodbath. Although both sides have agreed to disarm their fighters, almost none of the estimated 45,000 combatants have turned in their weapons.

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