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Published: Tuesday August 5, 2014 MYT 3:00:06 AM
Updated: Tuesday August 5, 2014 MYT 3:01:24 AM

Ebola fears halt rotations of Sierra Leone forces into Somalia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sierra Leone, which is battling to contain the deadly Ebola virus, will stop new rotations of its U.N.-led forces into Somalia for now as authorities move to establish safeguards, Somalia's president said on Monday.

Sierra Leone is one of the key countries contributing troops to the Africa Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is helping battle Islamic militant al Shabaab insurgents there. But Sierra Leon is now deploying hundreds of troops within its own borders under an emergency plan to battle Ebola, which has killed nearly 900 people across West Africa.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, speaking to reporters during the African leaders' summit in Washington, said there would be no new rotations of Sierra Leone's forces until proper procedures were in place. He gave no timetable or further details.

"AMISOM (will) stop the rotation of the Sierra Leone battalion so that new soldiers won't arrive into Somalia unless we provide a means to ensure" that people arriving are unaffected, he said.

Ebola, a hemorrhagic virus, has no known cure and is straining the capacity of underfunded health systems and aid groups to the breaking point in one of the world's poorest regions.

In Sierra Leone on Monday, long convoys of military trucks ferried troops and medical workers to the country's far east, where the density of cases is highest. A military spokesman said the operation, code named Octopus, involved around 750 military personnel.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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