Nearly 1,000 recruits graduate

Some 986 Sierra Leonean soldiers graduated on Saturday from an intensive six-week training course conducted by British troops, presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told IRIN.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was represented at the passing-out ceremony by Vice-President Joe Demby at the ceremony, Kaikai said on Monday. Kabbah told the newly trained soldiers that they should set a standard for military professionalism and to help restore the image and credibility of Sierra Leone’s armed forces, Sierra Leone Web (SLW) reported.

Meanwhile over 200 troops from Britain’s Royal Irish Regiment arrived in Sierra Leone over the weekend to train a further 1,000 recruits, SLW reported. They replace a similar number of soldiers from Britain who trained the first batch, it added.

Meanwhile a 10-man advance party from a Russian helicopter group, led by Major General Anatoly Surtsukov, was expected in Sierra Leone on Monday evening, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu told IRIN.

On arrival, they will make an assessment of the situation, conduct reconnaissance of the area and organise the reception and settlement of the main contingent, the Russian news agency, RIA, reported.

The remaining 115 men on four Russian helicopter gunships are expected to follow soon after, the UN reported on Friday.