Foday Sankoh, Sierra Leone Terror Leader, Dies

Foday Sankoh (search), the indicted leader of a bloody 10-year rebel terror campaign in Sierra Leone (search), died in U.N. custody at a hospital in the capital, the spokesman for the war-crimes court said Wednesday.

Sankoh, aged about 70, died late Tuesday night in a U.N.-controlled section of Freetown (search) hospital, said David Hecht of the U.N.-Sierra Leone war crimes court.

Sankoh had been ill almost since his capture in early 2000. There was no immediate information on the cause of death.

Sankoh, like Charles Taylor of neighboring Liberia, trained in the Cold War guerrilla camps of Moammar Gadhafi.

Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front launched an insurgency to control Sierra Leone's government and diamond fields in 1991.

His drugged, drunk rebels became notorious for their viciousness, killing, raping, maiming and kidnapping tens of thousands of civilians.

Under Sankoh, rebels made a trademark of hacking off the hands, feet, lips and ears of victims with machetes.

Sankoh was captured after his fighters gunned down more than a dozen protesters outside his Freetown home, and had been in U.N. custody in prisons and hospitals since. He was indicted by the Sierra Leone war crimes court.

Forceful military intervention by Britain, Guinea and the United Nations crushed the rebels, and Sierra Leone formally declared the war over in early 2002.