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Freeing the Peacekeepers: British Forces Arrive in Sierra Leone, Stabilize SituationAired May 16, 2000 - 2:30 p.m. ET
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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: United Nations officials hope to negotiate the release of some 350 peacekeepers still being held hostage by rebels in Sierra Leone. It has been two weeks since the peacekeepers were taken hostage. Some captives freed over the weekend are now waiting to be moved to safety.
Reporter Robert Moore from Britain's Independent Television News with the latest now from Sierra Leone.
ROBERT MOORE, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): British forces in Freetown continue to operate well away from the front-line. But their presence does appear to have stabilized the situation and provided the U.N. with some desperately needed breathing space.
It has even allowed soldiers of the spearhead battalion to engage in some more relaxed activities with local children. Sierra Leone has known only war for nine tears, and the idea of professional, highly- disciplined soldiers generating good will is entirely novel. It is a sharp contrast with the wild militia, mercenaries and rebels, many drunk and on drugs, who have been the cause of so much of the suffering.
It has left whole swathes of countryside abandoned, villages empty, a people forced to retreat to the relative safety of the bush, victims of widespread looting and pillaging. And as some of their peacekeepers were limping back from the frontline, the U.N. faces the daunting task of putting this country back together again, even though hundreds of other U.N. troops are still being held hostage by the rebels.
DAVID WIMHURST, U.N. SPOKESMAN: Some of them may have fallen sick, malnourishment, dehydration a possibility. So we are very concerned about their state, and we would like see them moving in to Liberia, as soon as possible, for release.
MOORE: But at least the U.N. have the reassuring presence of the British, including these gurkers (ph) attached to the parachute regiment, and out on patrol in the jungle, surrounding the airport.
(on camera): Seven days after deployment and British soldiers are now acclimatized, and preparing for several more weeks out here. They have made a difference. They have bolstered the U.N. force, but given the chaos in Sierra Leone, that's no guarantee of an enduring peace.
(voice-over): But the arrival of more U.N. reinforcements is certainly a boost for this deeply troubled peacekeeping mission.
Robert Moore, ITN, Sierra Leone.
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