Sierra Leone disarmament completed

Disarmament in a key diamond-mining district controlled by rebels has been completed, bringing the number of fighters who have surrendered their weapons in Sierra Leone to more than 16,000, U.N. officials said Saturday, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The process got off to a slow start in the eastern district of Kono in July, but then picked up until the last of 3,623 rebels and 2,011 pro-government militia fighters turned in their weapons Friday, U.N. military spokesman Maj. Mohammed Yerima said.

National disarmament started in mid-May-raising hopes of an end to more than 10 years of savage conflict in the West African country, the AP reported. The process is expected to continue into November.

Sierra Leone’s rebels have raped, maimed and killed tens of thousands of civilians in a terror campaign aimed at seizing control of the government and lucrative diamond fields.

They signed-and abandoned-three peace accords before agreeing to the latest cease-fire in November.

Peace efforts moved forward this year after rebels came under heavy pressure from British troops, the military of neighboring Guinea and the U.N. peacekeeping force.