Sierra Leone vice-president asks US for asylum

FREETOWN (AFP) - Sierre Leone's vice-president Sam Sumana has applied for asylum at the US embassy in Freetown and is in hiding while his request is considered, a source close to him said Saturday.

Sumana was expelled from the governing All People's Congress (APC) party this month for what was described as "his anti-party activities, including fomenting violence", although he denied the allegations and has appealed against his suspension to the party leadership.

A member of his entourage said Sumana "is now in hiding at a secure location awaiting a reply to a request he has made by telephone to the American embassy for asylum for himself and his wife."

The US embassy declined to comment.

Amid reports that Sumana believed his life was in danger, deputy government spokesman Abdulai Bayratay told AFP "the Vice-President is not under any threat."

Heavily armed soldiers stormed Sumana's hilltop residence on Saturday but he was not there, witnesses said.

The soldiers left with bundles of files, one witness said.

Secretary-general of the APC Osman Yansaneh said on March 6 that the party accuses Sumana of falsely claiming to be a Muslim, and of inventing a degree from a US university.

He is also accused of being responsible for "frequent unrest" in his eastern home district of Kono and the party believes he was plotting to set up a breakaway political party.