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World - Africa

Sierra Leone rebels kill captive nun

January 23, 1999
Web posted at: 11:10 a.m. EST (1610 GMT)

In this story:

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CNN) -- Rebels in Sierra Leone have shot and killed a Roman Catholic nun they were holding captive, the missionary news agency MISNA reported Saturday.

"Yesterday, one of the sisters of the Order of Mother Teresa, kidnapped last week by Sierra Leone rebels, was killed," the agency, based in Rome, said in a statement.

A Xaverian missionary escaped with gunshot wounds, the agency added. The rebels, battling Sierra Leone troops and a West African coalition force in Freetown, still hold five nuns and another Xaverian missionary as hostages.

MISNA identified the dead nun as Sister Aloysius Maria from India. Father Girolamo Pistoni, originally from Italy, was injured and escaped.

The agency said it had no news of the other hostges, all captured at different times by the rebels.

Meanwhile, troops from Nigeria, which oversees the intervention force known as ECOMOG, rescued the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Freetown, Joseph Henry Ganda, and four European priests Friday. The rebels who had held them escaped with several other captives.

"We're happy to be alive, but there are others still there with the rebels," Ganda said. "We're praying for them."

Homeless struggle to survive

Fighting raged in Sierra Leone Saturday as the United Nations Security Council urged warring parties to allow aid workers to cope with the growing refugee crisis.

After a briefing by the U.N. undersecretaries-general in charge of peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs, a council statement said there had been "some improvement in the security situation in that country, but the situation remains serious and is cause for concern."

The statement said members "expressed grave concern, in particular, with the humanitarian situation and the increasing number of refugees."

The council stressed the need for all parties to ensure the safety of all humanitarian personnel, to allow them to work effectively and to respect their impartiality and neutrality.

Peacekeeping troops supported

Council members also expressed support for "the democratically elected government of President (Ahmad Tejan) Kabbah and for the efforts that are being made by ECOMOG," whose troops are backed by the Economic Community of West African States.

Kabbah, who was overthrown in a May 1997 coup, was reinstated last March by ECOMOG. However, fighting has continued in many parts of the country for the past two weeks.

Reports from Freetown said fighting moved from the city to the eastern outskirts toward mountain hideouts from where the rebels struck earlier this month.

The council statement urged the international community to give continued support to ECOMOG's efforts and expressed appreciation to those governments that provided contributions.

Council members "indicated their hope for an early resumption of dialogue that respects the legitimate government of President Kabbah," the statement added.

Food crisis looms

Food supplies have been low in Freetown since the fighting erupted. On Friday, thousands of displaced Sierra Leoneans joined long lines to get a share of emergency food aid.

Small fires burned inside Freetown's main soccer stadium where church and other relief groups began handing out bags of rice, cooking oil and other supplies.

"It's been 17 days since we have eaten nothing but bits of gari (cassava)," said housewife Fatou Jabbi, who had 10 family members gathered round a cooking pot.

"We believe that we have enough for the first phase of emergency aid," said Rev. Moses Khanu, president of the Council of Churches of Sierra Leone.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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