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NPFL Fighters Massacred 450 Civilians in Belle District: Survivor

May 1, 2008

BOPOLU (TRC)?Testifying at rural public hearings of the TRC in Bopolu City, Gbarpolu County, a survivor and former commissioner of Belle District now Gbarpolu County said rebels of the NPFL hundreds of inhabitants and burned down their towns and villages during a counter offensive against ULIMOD fighters massacred.

According to the survivor, Ziama, on May 15, 1993, rebels of Charles Taylor's NPFL massacred hundreds of civilians in Belle District during a counter-offensive against a rival rebel group, ULIMOD.

Fifteen years later, the killings became the focus of the ongoing hearings of the TRC, which is Liberia's way of trying to make amends for the horrors of the country from 1979 to 2003. Now the full disclosure of what became known as the Belle Fassama Massacre is coming to light.

"I told my family that the NPFL has captured the town. Please put me in the attic because I have no means of going outside. I was there and saw everything that was happening. They were singing a song, ?no more Fassama, no more Fassama.' The commander's name was George Woepor, who ordered his fighters to open every house and fire," Mr. Ziama explained.

He explained that the commander ordered his fighters to begin the slaughter by telling them to do anything they wanted.

"[He said], ?Those that can walk bring them. Those that will not be able to walk, do anything you want to do.' They opened the doors and started killing, chopping people's heads off and firing them with guns. They had cutlasses, knives and guns.

They caught all the civilians and came in my house. They found my son-in-law who was under the bed, brought him outside and cut his throat. In the other house, one man call Mamadu, they brought him out and cut his throat. They went in another town and they killed 300-plus persons," he narrated.

At Belle Yalla, Ziama explained, the fighters massacred another 100 inhabitants before their commander ordered them to raze the entire town. He said the fighters set all of the houses in the town ablaze before they continued their mass slaughter of other civilians in other neighboring towns and villages.

Ziama testified, "From there I heard the commander say to his soldiers, ?Single file and bring those people, we will carry them in Bong County. Anyone that will not be able to reach, that is his business.' From Fassama to Belle Yalla they killed about 100 civilians on the road. So these guys were in town about three hours. Their commander gave command to set the town on fire. The smoke was giving me a hard time but I couldn't come outside."

"I came down and couldn't believe my eyes because of what I saw. All over, the town was bloody with dead bodies all over the place," he continued.

He said they buried 350 of the dead in one mass grave in Fassama while the rest of the bodies were dumped in the various toilets in the town. He said the fighters also killed 41 Sierra Leonean refugees on a mission in Fassama.

As a result of the mass burial, Ziama explained, there are no toilets in the town of Fassama.

The TRC is an independent body set up to investigate the root causes of the Liberian crisis, document human rights violations, review the history of Liberia, and put all human rights abuses that occurred during the period from 1979 to 2003 on record. The TRC mandate is to also identify victims and perpetrators and make recommendations on amnesty, prosecution and reparation.

The public hearings in rural Liberia are being held under the theme: "Confronting Our Difficult Past For A Better Future."

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