Ring Leader of West Side Boys Foday Kallay and five others namely: Alhaji Fofanah, Mohamed Bangura, Samuel Kargbo, Osman Sesay, Mohamed Savage and Foday Kamara who were sentenced in 2006 for conspiracy have been freed.
The Sierra Leone Prisons Department Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mohamed Jimmy revealed to Awoko that these convicts who were given 10 years each were released on Tuesday 28th April 2009 at about 5:25pm based on an ‘Early Possible Date’ (EPD) criteria.
He explained that EPD simply means that when an accused person has finished their period of sentence, they could be release at the earliest possible date referred to as EPD.
The Prisons PRO explained that the accused were detained in 2000 and were sentenced in 2006 and as it is now 2009 “they have now completed their time of sentence, taking into consideration the time they were detained” he said.
The PRO noted that they have not received any Presidential pardon this year.
The West Side Boys was an armed group in Sierra Leone, sometimes described as a splinter faction of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council. It captured and held members of the West African peacekeeping force ECOMOG, journalists Christo Johnson, Pasco Temple and Ade Campbell (including members of the Royal Irish Rangers) in 2000, and was subsequently destroyed by units of the British Special Air Service, Special Boat Service and Parachute Regiment during September 2000 in Operation Barras, and follow-up operations by the Sierra Leone Army and Royal Irish Rangers.
The group was influenced to some extent by American rap and gangsta rap music, especially Tupac Shakur, and the “gangsta” culture portrayed therein.
Prior to their destruction, the group had expanded to around 400 members.
West Side Boys were heavy users of homemade palm wine, locally grown marijuana, and heroin bought with conflict diamonds.
Conflict diamonds were also used to purchase many of their weapons, which ranged from SLR rifles, AK-47 rifles and RPG-7 grenade launchers to 81 mm mortars and ZPU-2 anti-aircraft guns.
Most of their vehicles were hijacked from UN food convoys. One of the hostages rescued during Operation Barras has also claimed that the West Side Boys were supplied with ammunition by corrupt Jordanian UN peacekeepers.