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U.S. orders embassy staff withdrawal in Sierra Leone

May 28, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department ordered a withdrawal of nonessential personnel Wednesday from the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone, where rebel soldiers have ousted the elected government.

No figures were available on the number of American diplomats and dependents affected by the order.

The Vacaville Reporter, a California newspaper, said a local man, Walid Hassan Romieh, was murdered Sunday in his parents’ home in Sierra Leone when rebel soldiers shot through the front door of his family’s home in an attempt to steal money. The newspaper said Romieh had been seeking permission from immigration authorities to live permanently in the United States.

State Department spokesman John Dinger said plans for an evacuation of Americans are being developed should that be necessary. The warship USS Kearsage was due off the Sierra Leone coast by late Wednesday or early Thursday.

The warship, with 1,200 Marines on board, had been stationed off the coast of Congo since early May. It set sail for Sierra Leone on Saturday.

The Pentagon has received no request for an evacuation and, as of Tuesday, officials said the 400 Americans there did not face any significant threat.

During the weekend uprising, stray gunfire damaged the U.S. Embassy, located 200 yards from the legislature.

Dinger condemned the coup and called on the perpetrators to return power immediately to the democratically elected government.

``This is a terrible setback to democracy in Sierra Leone that needs to be reversed immediately,″ Dinger said.

He said the coup leaders must understand that Sierra Leone will lose its international support unless they reverse their action.

The coup deposed President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who fled to neighboring Guinea.

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