Amid charred bodies and the smoldering rubble of a punishing military victory, a Nigerian-led intervention force took control Friday of Sierra Leone's embattled capital.
The coalition drove out a 10-month-old junta in a final offensive this week and now is poised to restore the ousted president - in what appears to be Africa's first successful experiment at using outside military might to return an elected government, rather than topple it.By Friday, the Nigerian-led coalition authorized by the Economic Community of West Africa controlled most of the city, although sporadic gunfire still could be heard.
Authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and worked to restore order, broadcasting radio appeals to listeners to surrender their arms and refrain from retaliatory attacks on junta troops.
Gunmen loyal to the country's fast-dissolving military regime were either in flight, hiding or had been served swift street justice by angered civilians.
City residents danced in the streets, while the charred bodies of at least seven junta soldiers killed in revenge attacks lay battered in the gutters.
The junta's removal clears the way for the return of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who was driven from power by renegade military commanders in May.
There was no immediate word on when the coalition planned to return Kabbah to power. Neither was there any immediate indication the coalition intended to retain control indefinitely.
The whereabouts of Lt. Col. Johnny Paul Koroma, the leader of the bloody May coup, were not known. Hundreds of other junta troops had surrendered and thrown down their weapons.
A senior coalition commander, Nigerian Maj. Gen. Timothy Shelpidi, said from his headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia, that several of his planes had forced down two junta attack helicopters in Monrovia and captured the 25 people inside.