Allied Force Bolstered in Sierra Leone

From Reuters

A West African intervention force in Sierra Leone geared up to counterattack rebels Sunday, ferrying additional troops by helicopter toward the front line in this capital.

At the same time, West African governments stepped up mediation to stop the fighting in the war-torn city. On Sunday, the violence claimed the life of a journalist from Associated Press.

Colleagues said that two other AP journalists were wounded as the three traveled in a car that came under rebel fire in Freetown. They were evacuated to neighboring Guinea, and the two survivors were then flown to Ivory Coast.


In New York, Associated Press confirmed the casualties and identified the dead man as AP television producer Myles Tierney, 34, a native of New York. It said Ian Stewart, AP’s bureau chief for West Africa, was shot in the head. Stewart, 32, who is from Toronto, was based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Photographer David Guttenfelder of Waukee, Iowa, was injured by broken window glass.

Sierra Leone’s beleaguered government predicted that the intervention force, known as ECOMOG, would drive out the Revolutionary United Front rebels by Sunday night. ECOMOG was caught napping when rebel fighters flooded into Freetown on Wednesday.

“Fresh troops arrived last night and are still coming,” Information Minister Julius Spencer said.

Witnesses said hundreds of reinforcements for ECOMOG had arrived overnight aboard a Boeing 747 at the international airport at Lungi, 20 miles north of Freetown, where the force has its main base.

The foreign ministers of Ivory Coast and Togo flew to Guinea for talks with Guinean President Lansana Conte at the start of a renewed attempt to mediate between the Sierra Leone rebels and President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

Aides said the delegation would go to Freetown today to try to negotiate a cease-fire.