FACTBOX-Sierra Leone's civil war

Thu Aug 2, 2007 2:05pm BST

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(Reuters) - Sierra Leone's special war crimes court convicted two former leaders of a pro-government militia on Thursday for war crimes, but acquitted them of some of the most serious charges of crimes against humanity.

The pair were leaders of the Civil Defence Forces, which fought for President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in the 1991-2002 civil war.

Here are some key facts about the conflict.

* The war began in 1991 when ex-army corporal Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front took up arms against then- President Joseph Momoh, seizing towns near Liberia's border.

* Although the rebels found some popularity at first, they earned a reputation for murder, rape, mutilation and recruiting child soldiers. Other factions also committed atrocities.

* The war was funded partly by diamonds mined in southern and eastern Sierra Leone. This helped lead to a global campaign against so-called blood diamonds mined in conflict zones.

* The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), a group of army officers allied to the rebels, overthrew elected President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1997. A Nigerian-led regional force reinstated Kabbah within a year.

* A truce was agreed in 1999 after heavy fighting in Freetown, but it fell apart in 2000. Former colonial power Britain sent troops to help a struggling U.N. force.

* Driven back into the countryside, rebels allowed U.N. troops to deploy to the areas they held in 2001. Disarmament was completed in 2002 and the war was formally declared over.

* Kabbah was re-elected in May 2002. The RUF, standing as a political party, won little support in the ballot. Sankoh died in prison in 2003 while facing a war crimes indictment.

* The death toll from the war is estimated at 50,000 in a country that has a population of around 6 million people. Sierra Leone ranked second from bottom in the 2006 U.N. Human Development Index.

* Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was put on trial in June 2007 in The Hague. He is charged with instigating murder, rape and terrorism in Sierra Leone where, in return for diamonds mined in the east of the country, he is accused of arming Revolutionary United Front rebels.

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