Liberian rebels free priest

Thursday, May 30, 2002

MONROVIA, Liberia -- A British priest who was abducted by Liberian rebels was released and given to the Vatican Embassy in neighboring Guinea on Wednesday, a church official said.

The Rev. Garry Jenkins was abducted May 13 in the town of Tubmanburg in northwestern Liberia, where he was helping dozens of blind civilians who were fleeing fighting.

between rebels and government troops.

Jenkins was freed after members of the Liberian Interfaith Council flew to Guinea and met with the rebels to negotiate his freedom, Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Francis said.

It was unclear when or how Jenkins crossed the border into Guinea, or where delegation members met the rebels.

Jenkins was released to the Vatican Embassy in the Guinean capital of Conakry, Francis said. "My information is that he's well and healthy" Francis said.

The Interfaith Council is made up of senior Muslim and Christian leaders from across Liberia.

There was no word on the estimated 60 blind civilians Jenkins was trying to help flee.

Rebels have stepped up their attacks against President Charles Taylor's government, and fighting has been reported in five of Liberia's 15 counties in recent weeks.

Taylor, a former warlord who won presidential elections in 1997, has accused neighboring Guinea of backing rebel groups, many of which Taylor fought against during the 1989-96 civil war.

Guinea denies the charge and accuses Liberia of supporting its own insurgents, as well as Sierra Leonean rebels who have attacked Guinean villages.

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