ATU Recruits in Maryland County for Lofa War

The Perspective

August 23, 2001

As fighting flares up again in Lofa County, there is allegation that President Taylor's dreaded ATU forces assigned to Maryland are recruiting Marylanders for the war in Lofa. During President Taylor's visit to Maryland, he replaced the entire police force with 100 troops of the Anti-Terrorist Unit. The president said that the troops will remain in the county until a police force is trained. Maryland County has an infamous history of ritualistic killings.

But as a BBC correspondent recently reported, "ritual killings have been a problem not just in Liberia, but across West Africa, particularly during elections or times of war."

It can be recalled that Mr. Taylor was allegedly involved in ritualistic killings and cannibalism during the throes of the Liberian civil war (The Mask of Anarchy by Stephen Ellis).

Informed sources reaching The Perspective say that the issue of ritualistic killings has not risen to the level of national security concerns. They opine that rather than sending ATU, the president should have deplored the civilian security establishment, such as the Central Investigation Division (CID). It appears that the real motive of the presence of ATU is to recruit boys and men for the fighting in Lofa.

The hidden motive of using the ATU for recruitment purposes has prompted Mr. P. Nimely-Sie Tuon, who is a member of the Organizing Committee of the Maryland Association in the Americas, to write to this magazine and the Ministry of Information in Monrovia. In his communication, Mr. Tuon said:

"News from the streets, school campuses, market places, among church congregations, have it, that the Taylor regime so-called Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), sent to Maryland County to "fight" against ritualistic killings, has started approaching young boys and men in an attempt to recruit them for the fighting in Lofa County Students going and coming from school are constantly being approached by these heavily armed men trying to coach them to join them to go fight in Lofa County."

Amnesty International recently reported: "Testimonies and reports gathered by Amnesty International suggest that since late April 2001, government security forces, especially the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), a special military unit frequently accused of human rights violations, have extrajudicially executed, arbitrarily detained or tortured -- including the rape of women and girls."

Meanwhile, Liberian defense officials say Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) forces burned down Kpatazu, a town close to the border with Guinea. There are also reports of clashes between dissidents and Liberian government forces for the control of Kolahun.

In its August 10, 2001, press Release, LURD stated "The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) is still in full control of major territories in the Republic of Liberia and remains committed to unseating rebel President Charles Taylor and his West African structured criminal enterprise from state power."

The war in Lofa is replete with claims and counter claims that can not be verified independently since the Liberian government has banned independent coverage of the war and LURD has not allowed reporters to visit the territory it controls.

In another development, a pro-Taylor group is threatening to demonstrate if Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf returns to Liberia as she has indicated. The group claims that Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf insulted the president and the Liberian people by saying that Taylor would not be foolish enough to do anything to harm her.

Many political observers believe that the demonstration will be staged by former combatants or the so-called civil war veterans. The group is credited for driving pro-democracy and human rights activists from Liberia. They drove Former Interim President Amos Sawyer, Conmany Wesseh, his wife (Medina Wesseh), former President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate - Charles Brumskine and others out of the country.

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