Thursday, September 20, 2007

Violence spreads in Sierra Leone

Police in Sierra Leone

A number of attacks are being reported against supporters of Sierra Leone's ex-ruling party in the past 24 hours.

Violence against Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) members erupted on Monday as opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma was sworn-in as the new president.

President Koroma described violence by his supporters as "unfortunate and regrettable" and told police to use all their powers to get those responsible.

President Koroma met ex-cabinet members and promised security and protection.

More attacks

Former Foreign Minister Momodu Koroma said his family was singled out for attack in his home town of Mile 91 and his uncle's house had been burnt to the ground.

Mile 91 has become a base for many former rebel fighters since the end of the decade long war and is the gateway to the southeast, an SLPP stronghold.

Among the incidents there reported to the BBC's Umaru Fofana in Freetown, a local radio journalist, Hassan Wai Koroma, said he has spent the last couple of days under police protection following attacks on his house by victorious All People's Congress supporters.

Another journalist, James Saidu Koroma, sobbed as he told the BBC by phone that he had come under attack and was chased to the police station where he too took refuge.

Chief Kapr Sanka said his pregnant wife and his children had fled to the bush following threats that he would be attacked.

And the paramount Chief of Biriwa, in the northern Bombali district, also reported that several villages in his chiefdom came under attack last night.

He told our correspondent that he was forced to flee and was speaking from his hideout.

There have also been reports of attacks in the diamond-rich district of Kono, while in the market town of Koquima, shops belonging to members of ex-President Tejan Kabbah's ethnic Mandingo people, have been looted and razed.

On Monday, police fired tear gas at a crowd that ransacked the SLPP offices in Freetown.

At least one person is known to have died in brawls after the president was sworn in on Monday.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Violence spreads in Sierra Leone