Gunmen ambushed a UN peacekeeping unit in Sierra Leone Friday, touching off a firefight that left one Jordanian soldier dead and four others wounded, UN officials said, reported The Associated Press.
The agency said the peacekeepers were on their way from the western town of Masiaka to join a convoy of UN vehicles at the nearby town of Mile 91 when they were attacked with guns and a rocket-propelled grenade, UN force commander Maj. Gen. Vijay Kumar Jetley said.
The peacekeepers, all Jordanians, returned fire. Jetley said he did not know if the attackers suffered any casualties.
It was not immediately clear who had launched the attack, which occurred about 80 miles east of the capital, Freetown, according to the AP.
The rebel Revolutionary United Front signed a peace accord in July that ended the West African nation's eight-year civil war, but the insurgents reignited the conflict in early May when they seized 500 UN hostages and began advancing toward Freetown.
The hostages have since been released, and a ragtag alliance of pro-government forces has been pushing the rebels away from the capital.
UN peacekeepers from Nigeria were moving Friday to reinforce Mile 91, where about 49,000 people have gathered after fleeing rebel attacks on surrounding villages, UN deputy spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said in New York. The rebels have been burning and looting in the area in an apparent search for food.
The attack on the peacekeepers came as 21 UN troops returned to Freetown after being held for weeks at an eastern rebel base.
The RUF on Wednesday handed the Indian captives over to Liberian authorities in the remote border town of Foya. They were then transported in a government-chartered helicopter to the Liberian capital, Monrovia, where they were collected Friday by a UN airplane.
All were in "reasonable health," De Almeida e Silva said.
More than 200 UN troops remained surrounded, however, in a UN compound in the rebel stronghold of Kailahun, about 200 miles east of Freetown.
RUF rebels killed tens of thousands of civilians and systematically maimed many more during the civil war, said the AP – Albawaba.com
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