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NPFL Fighters Massacred Over 300 Civilians in Bakedu: Witness

Voinjamin, April 17, 2008 (TRC): Fighters of Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) massacred over 300 civilians in the town of Bakedu, Lofa County, a witness Thursday told commissioners of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Weeping intermittently during his lengthy testimony at the Voinjamin City Hall, an elder of Bakedu town Sekou Jabateh who survived the killings, explained that on July 12, 1990 NPFL fighters stormed the town and asked the few inhabitants still there to summon others who had sought refuge in the forest.

Jabateh said that not knowing the intentions of the fighters, they went into the forest and called hundreds of other inhabitants who came and assembled under the palaver hut.

After the inhabitants assembled, he explained, the fighters started extorting money from them before the commander (name unknown) ordered his men to open fire.

Mr. Jabateh said the firing lasted for over 15 minutes with fighters gunning down their victims in hailed of bullets as they shouted the popular Arabic verse: "There is no God but Allah."

"The people they killed were more than 300, because the palaver hut was crowded with no space to stand. The other people standing outside the palaver hut too were plenty. The fighters shot and killed almost everyone," the elderly man testified in his ethnic Mandingo dialect through an English interpreter.

Days later following the massacre, the witness explained, the fighters piled the decomposing bodies under the palaver hut, poured gasoline and burned them with dried wood.

Following the incident, Jabateh explained, a female fighter justified the massacre by saying that those killed were all Mandingos and Muslims and that they deserved death.

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 ongoing public hearing in Voinjamin, Lofa County is being held under the theme: "Confronting Our Difficult Past For A Better Future."

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