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UN, Lutheran Massacres Victim Testifies

A distressed widow who survived the United Nations Compound and St. Peter's Lutheran Church Massacres Tuesday recounted horrifying accounts of the events which led to the death of hundreds of Liberians.

January 28, 2008

Testifying on the 13th day of hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, Madame Annie Tennih said soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) carried out both massacres in 1990, resulting into the death of her husband, Samuel Larmi, and scores of other relatives and displaced people.

Tennih recalled that one morning a group of AFL soldiers loyal to the late President Samuel Doe entered the then-United Nations Compound and opened fire on the hundreds of displaced persons that had gone there to seek refuge, killing scores of them.

Tennih said she and her children survived the killings when they sneaked into the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment building in the same compound and hid in one of the rooms.

She said the following day, people from the Lutheran Church came and invited them to transfer to the church for safety.

Tennih, 40, said on the night of July 30 at about 10:00 p.m., a group of soldiers broke into the compound and started indiscriminately shooting, killing a majority of the displaced people. The victim said she sustained several bullet wounds on her right hand, foot and neck.

She said following the mass executions, the soldiers entered all the classrooms searching for survivors. She attributed her survival to God.

Another victim, James Dudu Thomas, said he was arrested by rebels of the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), who tied and threw him into an army of ants. "While I remained tied, one of the commanders hit my forehead several times with a pistol," Thomas explained.

He said this happened in the aftermath of the capture and subsequent killing of President Samuel Doe by the INPFL, when loyalists of President Doe went on the rampage, sporadically shooting and chanting the slogan, "No Doe, No Liberia."

This, Thomas explained, forced him and others to take refuge at the Island Clinic in the St Paul Bridge Community, where he exchanged 17 gallons of petrol for a bag of rice with a British national.

Thomas, 49, said when he sent a little boy for the rice, the boy was arrested and the rice taken away by the fighters.

"This prompted me to make a follow-up, but I, too, was arrested and tied-up by the INPFL fighters. I was later saved by an ECOMOG soldier who, while on patrol along the banks of the St. Paul River, spotted me in the swamp. The ECOMOG soldier later untied and removed me from the swamp where I was for 8 hours," he narrated.

He also recalled how he was arrested by ULIMO fighters in Tubmanburg, Bomi County but was rescued by one of the commanders, only called "Sheriff," when he was about to be executed. He said this happened while in search of his sister in ULIMO-controlled areas when he was accused of being on reconnaissance mission for another faction.

Also testifying, Reverend Tijli Tarty Tyee, said he and his wife were molested and humiliated by the then Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), General John Tarnue, during a land dispute in 1996.

Tyee, 55, claimed that on September 30, 1999, General Tarnue, commanding soldiers, Special Security Service and Anti Terrorist Unit officers came in two pickups, invaded his house and forcibly took him to the disputed land, where he was severely beaten.

He said that although General Tarnue is out of the country, Tarnue's family members are still claiming ownership to the land on grounds that it was sold to Tarnue by the late Gabriel Duncan.

With tears streaming from his eye, another witness, Paul Sherman said he was among 75 survivors of over 1000 West Africans taken captive and massacred by fighters of the defunct of National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in Bomi County in August, 1990.

Sherman, whose mother is Ghanaian, said they were rounded-up in Grand Cape Mount County, when the front's leader Charles Taylor announced the arrest and execution of citizens from countries who contributed troops to the ECOMOG peacekeeping force.

He said that during the massacre his two brothers, J B and Dennis Williams, his uncle, Kwabena Andoh, and a cousin, whom he did not name, were among the dead.

Sherman, 36, said he witnessed the executions in the town of Gbar, Bomi County, where he and others spent between three-to-four months with the rebels.

He also explained that scores of people were murdered in the Guthrie Rubber Plantation by NPFL fighters under the command of General Oliver Varnie, CO Myers and others.

He said they were tied, tortured and beaten while they were in the rebels' captivity.

The witness narrated that having gone through vigorous torture one night, he became thirsty to the extent that he had to drink his own and others' urine.

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