IRIN-West Africa Update 142, 98.2.10

IRIN-West Africa Update 142, 98.2.10

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 142 of Events in West Africa, (Tuesday) 10 February 1998

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG launches all-out offensive on Freetown

The Nigerian-led West African intervention force, ECOMOG, launched an all-out offensive on Monday to capture Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, media reports said. Deputy ECOMOG commander Brigadier General Abdul One Mohammed told reporters in the Nigerian capital, Lagos, that his troops were not far away from the city centre and would continue their advance. Renewed fighting between ECOMOG and Sierra Leone's ruling Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) first broke out last Thursday.

Meanwhile in Freetown, IRIN sources reported the immediate security and humanitarian situation had rapidly deteriorated. According to one security source, vehicles belonging to humanitarian agencies had been looted on Monday by AFRC soldiers. At least one unconfirmed report said the compound of a humanitarian agency had also been raided and was now occupied by AFRC soldiers. IRIN sources reported heavy shellfire in Freetown. Sources said, however, they were not in a position to provide immediate casualty figures.

A Western military analyst told IRIN it was not clear whether ECOMOG had sufficient troops to capture the city in coming days. "Fighting in an urban environment absorbs a lot of troops," the source said. A humanitarian observer told IRIN that Freetown's civilian population would be in a tenuous situation if there was a stalemate in the battle for the city. "Half a million people will be concentrated in a very small area, and completely cut off," the source said. "If the humanitarian community cannot operate effectively, conditions may deteriorate rapidly."

WFP issued a warning on Monday that fighting in Sierra Leone would have a disastrous effect on hundreds of thousands of people already facing a serious food situation.

LIBERIA: Dokie murder case fails to open

The trial of five suspects arrested for the murder of Liberian opposition leader Samuel Dokie last November failed to open as expected on Monday, AFP reported. The trial had been slated to start in Gbarnga, some 160 km north Monrovia and close to the scene of the murder. However, a local judge said the case had not been included in the Gbarnga court's February term. He set no new trial date. Last Thursday, Liberia's solicitor general said President Charles Taylor had allocated US$ 75,000 for the opening of the trial.

NIGER: Students commemorate killing of pro-democracy demonstrators

Hundreds of students and school pupils gathered in Niger's capital, Niamey, on Monday to commemorate the killing of three students at a pro-democracy rally eight years ago, AFP reported. The students boycotted classes to march at the scene of the confrontation with government security forces on Niamey's Kennedy bridge. According to AFP, students accused the government of failing to deal with security force members deemed responsible for the student deaths.

MAURITANIA: Defence lawyers file "not guilty" plea

Defence lawyers pleaded "not guilty" on Monday on behalf of three Mauritanian anti-slavery activists accused of spreading false allegations of slavery, AFP reported. The activists were arrested last month after taking part in a French television documentary on slavery in Mauritania.

Slavery was officially outlawed in Mauritania in 1980, but the human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has claimed it is still practised.

GHANA: Snakebite serum shortage

Health authorities in Ghana were looking for stocks of snakebite serum after European suppliers proved unable to meet demand, AFP reported on Monday. According to a health official quoted by the agency, Ghana has now only 200 vials of serum in stock.

CHAD: US issues travel advisory

The US State Department warned American citizens in Chad on Monday to be on the alert after the kidnapping of four French citizens last week near Sahr in south Chad, Reuters reported. Although the four were released, the State Department urged American citizens in Chad to exercise "caution".

Abidjan, 10 February 1998, 18:30 gmt


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN West Africa, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN-WA Tel: +225 21 73 66 Fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail: for more information or subscription. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the Web at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to . Mailing list: irin-wa-updates]

Date: Tue, 10 Feb 1998 18:38:28 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 142, 98.2.10 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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