Sierra Leone Hostages Freed by SAS
The 10th of September 2000 AD
Members of the Royal Irish Regiment supporting the Sierra Leone Army were taken hostage in that country on August 25 2000. Their captors were the notorious West Side Boys. This group, more of a gang than a military force, was heavily armed. Some of its members had tortured captives to death. The West Side Boys were generally under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or heroin.
On September 3 five of the 11 hostages were released against delivery of a satellite phone and some medicines, but further negotiations with their leader, Foday Kallay, led the British authorities to conclude the remaining six were in immediate danger. The then PM Tony Blair okayed a well planned mission – Operation Barras - to rescue the five Britons and their Sierra Leonean liaison officer.
SAS and SBS forces had already infiltrated the area around the camp where the hostages were kept and a creek between that camp and a village holding most of the West Side Boys who numbered around 400.
At 6:30am a major assault by Paras dropped by helicopters backed by a helicopter gunship hit the village. Simultaneously SAS soldiers grabbed the hostages and took them to safety. Sadly one SAS man, Bombardier Brad Tinnion, was killed in the fire-fight which lasted until 14:00.
Some 25 enemy fighters died in the battle, and 18 were captured including Kallay, who was subsequently tried and sentenced to 50 years in prison for his crimes. The group was destroyed as a unit by follow-up attacks by Sierra Leonean forces and Royal Irish Rangers.
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