Nigerians launch attack on Sierra Leone mutineers
June 2, 1997
Web posted at: 11:28 a.m. EDT (1528 GMT)
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CNN) -- Heavy shelling from Nigerian
gunboats rocked Sierra Leone's capital Monday morning in an
apparent attempt to drive out coup leaders who took over the
country on May 25.
Talks between the military coup leaders and Nigerian and
British diplomats broke down Sunday night. West African
nations, led by the Nigerians, had been trying to persuade
coup leader Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma to turn the country back
over to now-exiled President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea have been amassing troops in
Freetown since the coup, signaling their willingness to use
force if Kabbah -- elected in 1996 to replace another
military government -- is not returned to power.
A Nigerian commander said his troops took over the
international airport north of the city Monday morning
after a short firefight with Sierra Leone troops. The Lungi
airport had been under joint control since the coup but will
now be used to bring in reinforcements, the commander said.
Clashes also took place at the coup's seafront headquarters
and a nearby hotel where about 1,000 people from other West
African countries fled during the coup. Six Nigerians
guarding the hotel were reported wounded in an attack.
Aided by U.S. troops, hundreds of people have been evacuated
from the hotel's heliport during the last few days.
Thousands of Freetown residents took to the streets Monday
protesting the Nigerians' intervention, but said they also
did not support the coup. Many have ignored the coup leaders'
order to return to work.
On Sunday, Koroma named his 20-member ruling council,
including rebel leader Foday Sankoh as vice chairman. Sources
said that Sankoh's group opposed a settlement, and may have
been partly responsible for the breakdown of talks Sunday.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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