Sierra Leone Rebel Leader Died of Pneumonia

Pneumonia and other ailments killed former Sierra Leone rebel leader Foday Sankoh (search), an indicted war-crimes suspect who died in U.N. custody, doctors concluded.

Authorities turned Sankoh's body over to his widow on Saturday after the autopsy.

Sankoh, 65, died Tuesday at the U.N. ward of a hospital in Freetown, the capital.

Sankoh, a Libyan-trained guerrilla leader, led Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (search) in its brutal 10-year campaign to win control of the government and diamond fields.

His fighters made a trademark of cutting off the hands, feet, lips and ears of men, women and children — even newborns. U.N. prosecutors estimate the war killed at least 75,000 people before outside military intervention crushed the rebels, ending the war in early 2002.

Sankoh had suffered a stroke since his capture in 2000. He appeared incoherent, and later mute, at his court hearings.

Sierra Leone pathologists listed the causes of death as "respiratory failure, massive pulmonary embolism, deep venous thrombosis and bronchopneumonia."

U.N. authorities provided a varnished wood coffin for the return of his remains to his family.

Onlookers stood in drizzling rain Saturday to watch the transfer of the body, surrounded by dozens of Sierra Leone police.

"I have lost a great man who cares for his people and country," widow Fatou Sankoh said. "I will miss him forever."