Sierra Leone rebels release child hostages
March 13, 1999
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CNN) -- Sierra Leone appears to be inching closer toward peace talks after rebels freed 21 children they had been holding.
Jailed rebel leader Foday Sankoh, who is appealing a death sentence on a treason conviction, called on his followers Monday to release any civilians they might be holding as a prelude to peace talks.
Rebels handed the children over on Friday to representatives of the Sierra Leone Inter-Religious Council, U.N. military observers and officers from a West African intervention force.
U.N. sources said the rebels also released three adults. A total of 52 children have been set free in the past three weeks.
Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, has offered to free Sankoh if the act will bring peace to his country. Kabbah has also sanctioned a meeting between Sankoh and his commanders, which would most likely be held in Togo.
Representatives of Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were in Togo Friday to talk with President Gnassingbe Eyadema about the peace process.
Kabbah was elected president in 1996, but deposed by a military coup in 1997. A West African intervention force restored him to power, but RUF rebels have continued to battle against the government.
Despite the hopes for coming peace talks, rebel troops were reportedly fighting Guinean troops on the border between the two countries Saturday.
Guinea, a part of the intervention force, is concerned about infiltrations into its territory from rebel encampments.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Former hairdresser, dancer leads Sierra Leone rebels
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