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Shootout continues to claim lives in Sierra Leone 

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June 19, 2000 

 

FREETOWN (AP) - Gunfire erupted in the capital, Killing at least one civilian, hospital officials said Sunday, prompting the government to urge calm and insist security in Sierra Leone was assured.

     

Police were investigating the half-hour shooting on Saturday night, a statement on state-run radio said, adding that the burst of fire "may have been sparked off by some indisciplined use of

firearms."

     

A male commuter was killed when his car was struck by bullets in a residential neighborhood near downtown, hospital officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. On Sunday morning, the vehicle

was still parked by the road in a pool of blood and broken glass.

     

Pro-government militiamen who also asked to remain nameless said there were unconfirmed reports that several of their colleagues were seriously injured.

     

"The government wishes to assure the public that the incident was no threat to the security of the country," the government statement on the radio said.

     

The shooting was heaviest around the main prison, where members of the rebel Revolutionary United Front have been incarcerated since they reignited the country's 8-year civil war.

     

U.N. peacekeeping troops boosted regular patrols of the capital Sunday morning and United Nations spokesman David Wimhurst said the shooting may have been caused by factional rivalry.

     

"All I know is the events took place and we will get a report from our people. It could be due to rivalry between various factions," Wimhurst said.

     

The rebels signed a July peace accord but re-started the conflict in early May when they seized about 500 U.N. hostages and advanced toward the capital, Freetown.

     

The hostages have since been released, and a ragtag alliance of pro-government forces has been pushing the rebels away from the capital.

     

The rebels have killed tens of thousands of people and systematically maimed many more in a campaign of terror.

     

But more than 200 U.N. troops remain surrounded in rebel-held eastern Sierra Leone where a new group of 21 peacekeepers has also been detained.


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