Today from Hiiraan Online:
Sierra Leone Defence Minister Denies Reports of Killings in Somalia
Saturday, June 23, 2012
The Minister of Defence of the Republic of Sierra Leone has denied allegations published on the Internet that Sierra Leone soldiers have been killed in fighting in Somalia. According to Major (rtd) Palor Conteh, who was speaking to Awareness Times yesterday June 21st 2012, the battalion of Sierra Leone soldiers meant for the UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia has not even left Sierra Leone but was still being trained in-country.
“Our troops are undergoing specialized training here in Hastings. There will be a total of 850 Sierra Leone soldiers who will be going as a United Nations Mechanised battalion to Somalia but none of them have even left the shores of Sierra Leone,” Palor Conteh explained to Awareness Times.
“We are in Sudan as a small company of around 150 but we are not in Somalia as yet. No Sierra Leone soldier has been deployed into Somalia and none of our personnel anywhere in the world has been killed in any fighting recently,” Conteh assured.
According to Palor Conteh, the Sierra Leone battalion for Somalia might be leaving for Somalia “sometime in September”.
“No date has been fixed yet for their departure for Somalia. That is something I am working on with the United Nations Headquarters. It might be sometime in September,” the Defence Minister ended.
It can be recalled that internet reports from Somalia had spoken of significant Sierra Leone fatalities inside Somalia quoting a rebel Al Shabaab spokesman as having revealed the killings took place last week. This had cause distress amongst Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora. Their fears have now been allayed. The rebel reports were wrong. No Sierra Leone soldier is inside Somalia. No Sierra Leone soldier has been killed in the last two weeks anywhere in the world.
Whilst there have been concerns for the well being of our officers given the threats made against them by the Al Shabaab rebels when the UN announced the proposed deployment, many other Sierra Leoneans recall the sacrifice made by other national armies to restore peace to Sierra Leone during the country’s terrible civil war and believe this is time for Sierra Leone to show gratitude to the world for coming to its aid when all had seemed to be lost.
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