Sierra Leone

UN establishes presence in Sierra Leone rebel stronghold

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The United Nations said today that its peacekeepers had been able to establish UN's first presence in a long time in a rebel-held area in the eastern part of Sierra Leone.
A reconnaissance mission comprising five military observers and a platoon of Kenyan peacekeeping troops has just returned to the capital, Freetown, from Koidu, a rebel stronghold in the heart of the diamond zone, a UN spokeswoman told the press at UN Headquarters in New York. Marie Okabe said that according to reports, crowds were cheering the convoy, whose task was primarily to assess the condition of the road.

At a rebel roadblock about 75 miles from Koidu, the UN peacekeepers were blocked, Ms Okabe said. In order not to cancel the patrol altogether, the military observers and an information officer went alone to visit the town, marking the first time in years that the UN had presence so far east in Sierra Leone.