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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
Leone court demands rebel body
Sierra Leone warlord, Sam Bockarie
Sam Bockarie is an alleged war criminal

The tribunal investigating war crimes in Sierra Leone has asked to see the body of wanted warlord Sam Bockarie, suggesting some doubt over claims of his death.

The Liberian Government says Mr Bockarie was shot dead by its troops on Tuesday while trying to cross into Liberia from Ivory Coast.

Mr Bockarie, 40, was a senior commander of the rebel Revolutionary United Front during Sierra Leone's bloody 10-year civil war, and was indicted by the United-Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for his involvement in brutal crimes against civilians, including cutting off limbs.

But Mr Bockarie "has been in Liberia since 27 April. So how can he enter Liberia if he is already there?" the tribunal's chief investigator, Alan White, was quoted by AP news agency as saying.

Other countries in the region are doing much worse than us
Reginald Goodridge
Liberian Information Minister

On Wednesday, Liberia hit out angrily at the UN after the Security Council voted unanimously to extend sanctions that aim to punish Liberia for its alleged destabilisation of neighbouring countries.

The Council also agreed to ban imports of Liberian timber products in July unless Liberia shows it is acting to quell violence in the region.

Bockarie mystery

A body said to be Mr Bockarie's is on display in the Liberian capital Monrovia, but the court has asked that it be turned over for tests and formal identification.

At least 30,000 people were killed and thousands mutilated in the Sierra Leone conflict which ended in 2002, with the help of the UK, the former colonial power, and a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Alleged body of Sam Bockarie on display
Indicted for alleged war crimes
Accused of killing Ivory Coast rebel last month
Former dancing champion

Mr Bockarie - also a former hairdresser, diamond-miner and disco dance champion - was thought to be hiding in Liberia.

Last week the court warned Liberian President Charles Taylor he could himself be indicted unless he handed Mr Bockarie over.

Mr Taylor however denied allegations that the rebel leader - nicknamed Mosquito - was in the country.

On Tuesday the Liberian Information Ministry said Mr Bockarie had been killed after an attempt to arrest him as he crossed into Liberia from Ivory Coast met "stiff resistance".

"There were serious casualties on both sides," said a statement.

Mr Bockarie was recently reported to be leading a group of fighters helping rebels in Ivory Coast.

The Sierra Leonean international court says a second alleged war criminal, former junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, is also hiding in Liberia.

UN's 'wicked act'

Meanwhile former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar has been named as the Liberian envoy of the West African grouping, Ecowas, tasked with overseeing peace talks with Liberia's rebels.

Liberia has long stood accused of arming and funding Sierra Leonean rebels in return for the "blood diamonds" mined by them.

On Tuesday the UN Security Council renewed sanctions against the country including the continuation of an arms embargo, prohibition on imports of Liberian diamonds and a travel ban on Liberian officials.

It also placed an additional ban on Liberia's lucrative logs and timber products, but delayed implementation of the ban for two months as an incentive for Mr Taylor's government to co-operate.

Liberia's information minister said the unanimous vote was "a wicked act" based on double standards.

"Other countries in this region are doing much worse than us," Reginald Goodridge told the BBC's correspondent in Sierra Leone, Paul Welsh.

But the campaigning organisation Global Witness welcomed the impending ban on the timber trade.

It says it has proof that the trade finances arms for government and external rebels, and that timber transport routes are also used to distribute weapons.

Bockarie died a wanted man
07 May 03  |  Africa
Sierra Leone warlord 'dead'
06 May 03  |  Africa
Sierra Leone: Memories of war
19 Jan 02  |  Africa
Murky death of Ivory Coast rebel
29 Apr 03  |  Africa
Sierra Leone accused in court
15 Mar 03  |  Africa


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