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S. Leone Rebels Attack UN Soldiers

August 24, 2000

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ Sierra Leone’s rebels attacked U.N. and government soldiers along a strategic road leading to the international airport, injuring two peacekeepers, U.N. officials said Thursday.

Revolutionary United Front rebels attacked government troops late Wednesday at Kabatha Junction, about 80 miles north of the capital, Freetown, U.N. spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said. The army repelled the attack with an undetermined number of casualties on both sides, she said.

Later the same night, the rebels attacked a U.N. post farther south along the road that links Lungi airport to the western town of Port Loko. Two Nigerian U.N. peacekeepers were injured, said Befecadu, who was not aware of any rebel casualties.

``The situation has now been brought under control,″ she said.

Since Sierra Leone’s civil war began in 1991, the rebels have systematically killed and maimed tens of thousands of people in an attempt to gain control of the government and the country’s lucrative diamond-mining regions. They have abandoned three peace treaties, the latest signed last July.

In a bid to restart the peace process, the government Wednesday released 171 rebels _ including four children _ imprisoned in Freetown and surrounding towns since the RUF reignited the conflict in May, said Moses Showers, deputy director of prisons.

The released rebels were all ex-combatants, but did not include members of the RUF leadership. More could be released in the future.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to create a special court aimed at prosecuting rebel leaders in Sierra Leone for their crimes.

Foday Sankoh, the now-imprisoned founding leader and spiritual guide of the RUF, is expected to be one of the first people brought to trial.

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