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Annan Justifies UN's "Preemptive Strike"

Agence France Presse
July 25, 2000

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the United Nations' strike against the Sierra Leone renegade militia known as the Westside Boys was a "preemptive" one.

"It was a preemptive strike against a group of rebels who were planning an attempt to attack the force" of United Nations peacekeepers, Annan told journalists on Monday. "The UNAMSIL commander decided he should make a preemptive strike to disperse that unit before they were attacked," he added.

The UN mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL)'s operation "Thunderbolt" was launched against the militia on Saturday, succeeding in clearing the rebels' roadblocks between Freetown and Lungi airport.

The joint operation by Jordanian, Indian and Nigerian forces in UNAMSIL, which had air support, also attacked the Westside Boys' base at Occra, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Freetown. The Westside Boys, a militia composed of forces loyal to the junta that held power from May 1997 to February 1998, have been mounting roadblocks and clashing with the Sierra Leone army for the last several weeks, despite claiming loyalty to the Sierra Leonean government.

Annan also warned that the UN intended to maintain a tough profile in Sierra Leone where, at the start of May, some 500 UN peacekeepers were taken hostage by Revolutionary United Front rebels. "And basically we are going to remain vigilant. We are going to remain firm and anyone who attempts to attack the peacekeepers would know that they will defend themselves and that there will be a price to pay," he said.

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