SIERRA LEONE: AID WORKER HELD HOSTAGE FOR 9 DAYS ARE RELEASED



Natural Sound

Five missionary aid workers held hostage for nine days in Sierra Leone by supporters of the former ruling junta were released by their captors on Friday.

Other aid workers who had not been kidnapped, but were on the run for a week, were airlifted to safety on Friday.

Deposed President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah announced he would return to Freetown on March 10 – more than 10 months after he fled the military junta in the wake of a coup.

These military planes and personnel are part of the Nigerian-led West African coalition force – ECOMOG – helping to clear the way for the return of Sierra Leone’s deposed President.

President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah has said he will return to his country on March 10 to take up his former position as head of state.

Kabbah was overthrown in a bloody coup last year organised by Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma – and sent into exile in neighbouring Guinea.

ECOMOG drove Koroma’s military regime from the capital earlier this month.

But they have not yet secured the whole country.

Although Ecomog, is in control of Freetown, it is struggling to defeat renegade junta soldiers and allied rebels in the country’s interior.

Ecomog commanders said some junta forces were regrouping in towns along Sierra Leone’s southern border with Liberia.

According to reports out of Sierra Leone, the junta forces are taking all western missionaries and aid workers they can find as hostages.

Five missionary aid workers held hostage by fleeing junta gunmen for nine days were released on Friday by their captors.

The released were three Spaniards, an Italian and an Austrian, all missionaries working in Sierra Leone.

It was not clear how or why the five captives won their freedom.

These people are being airlifted to safety from an undisclosed location controlled by rebels in the north of the country.

Among the group of local people all fleeing for their lives were two other missionaries.

While these missionaries were not part of the ones kidnapped, they had been missing for a week in the bush and had been on the run.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“People along the road helped us all the time with food and water, but in the last few days it has been very hard because we had to walk a lot in the bush.”
SUPER CAPTION: Jose Carlos Lorono, Spanish Priest

On arriving at a Catholic mission in the outskirts of Freetown, Jose Lorona’s relief was evident as he hugged another priest – glad his ordeal was over.

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