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Guinean gunships cross into Sierra Leone; 13 reported killed

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February 27, 2001 


FREETOWN-(AP) - Guinean troops backed by helicopter gunships crossed into rebel-controlled Sierra Leone, firing on two villages, a U.N. commander said Monday.

The Italian missionary news service MISNA reported 13 civilians killed in the cross-fire of Saturday's clashes between the Guinean army and Sierra Leone's rebels, with scores more wounded.

Local authorities accused the Sierra Leone rebels of using residents of the villages of Sembuye and Rokel as human shields, MISNA said.

Fighting broke out late last year on the two West African countries' shared border, as well as that of neighboring Liberia.

Guinea accuses Liberia of backing Guinean dissidents and Sierra Leone's brutal rebels, a claim Liberia denies.

Lt. Gen. Daniel Opendi, commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, confirmed Guinean gunships fought Saturday at the villages of Sembuye and Rokel, just inside the Sierra Leone border in the northwestern district of Kambia.

Opendi had no further details.

MISNA said the battles killed nine people at Sembuye and four at Rokel.

Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Program said Monday it had sent its first food shipment since November to Guinea's Parrot's Beak region.

A finger of land jutting into northeastern Sierra Leone, Parrot's Beak has been largely cut off from aid since late September, when unidentified gunmen killed a local U.N. chief there.

Aid workers in recent weeks reported numerous deaths and cases of malnutrition among refugees trapped there.

Monday, 10 trucks left the Guinea city of Kissidougou under Guinean army escort with food for 4,000 refugees in three camps, the WFP said.

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