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Why the UN peacekeeping effort in Sierra Leone is unraveling.Skip to next paragraph
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David Clark Scott World editor
REPORTERS ON THE JOB..
$75 FOR A JOURNALIST'S LIFE: The trouble began Monday when at least 5,000 people marched on the house of Foday Sankoh, the Sierra Leone rebel leader, angrily chanting "Behead Sankoh!" The crowd surged forward, and reporter Corinna Schuler found herself caught between the protesters and the rebels. "One moment, there were four other journalists and 10 UN peacekeepers at my side. The next, they were gone. The crowd started throwing rocks at the house. "Terrified, I scrambled into a flimsy tin shed.... It was unclear who fired the first shot, but through a rusted hole in the shed, I could see rebels in sunglasses and baggy T-shirts blasting their AK-47s into the crowd in long volleys of gunfire. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed: "God, let me live, let me live." As I cowered in my hiding spot, two other men raced inside and lay flat on the floor. "It will be OK, madam," one man said. "Do not be too afraid."
After about 10 agonizing minutes, the gunfire ceased. "But it didn't take long for the rebels to find us," says Corinna. "The man who tried to reassure me rolled over and held up his hands. The rebel barely bothered to lift his rifle as he casually shot the kind stranger dead. I was up on my feet, holding up my reporter's notebook, and sobbing, "Please don't kill me! Please don't kill me!" He shot the second man next to me.
" 'Why did you come here?' the rebel barked, pointing his rifle at me. 'You should not be here!' 'I came to cover the protest,' I said. 'I'm a journalist. Please, just let me go.' Another rebel appeared. 'I'm going to eat you,' he said, grabbing my arm and biting it, playfully. Another man appeared at my side, clinging to me. 'She is with me,' he said. 'I am RUF. Let us go. She is with me.' The rebel ripped off her rescuer's shoes, demanded his small transistor radio and cash. He gave all he had - 150,000 leones (US$75) - to appease our young tormentor. 'I let you go because you're a journalist,' the rebel said. 'You go tell those boys they cannot make protests at this house, ever again!' We stepped over the bodies of three more men as we fled the yard, racing together up the road to meet my panicked driver.
"Tonight I cannot stop thinking of the smirking rebels and the two men who lay dead. Their wives and children must be in agony. I think of them. But I thank God, thank God, it was not me."
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