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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 22:23 GMT 23:23 UK
Bockarie died a wanted man
By Lucy Jones
BBC News Online

Sierra Leone warlord Sam Bockarie will be remembered for allegedly advocating a particularly horrific tactic of war: the deliberate and widespread practice of hacking off the limbs, lips and ears of his victims.

Sierra Leone warlord, Sam Bockarie
Sam Bockarie - one of West Africa's most notorious warlords
The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - the rebel group of which Mr Bockarie was a general - also received world attention for its systematic rape of women and abduction of thousands of children who were forced to fight.

Mr Bockarie, who died aged 40, was wanted by the United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal for his alleged part in the atrocities

In his time, he was also a disco dancing champion, diamond miner, hairdresser, electrician and waiter.

Known as "Mosquito" for his ability to attack while people were off their guard - he was one of the most feared guerrilla fighters to emerge from Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war which ended in 2002.

He was also accused of being behind bloodshed, looting and rape in rebel-held western Ivory Coast where his supporters have been held responsible for the killing in April of the rebel leader Felix Doh.

He once said in an interview: "I cannot tell how many people I have killed. When I am firing during an attack, nobody can survive my bullets.

"I never wanted myself to be overlooked by my fellow men."

He has spoken of a childhood of acute poverty in the jungles of eastern Sierra Leone.

His father could not afford schoolbooks - Mr Bockarie was illiterate - and he often went to bed hungry.

Liberia connection

Mr Bockarie started out in Liberia, where he trained with a guerrilla force that the now President Charles Taylor had formed in 1989 to overthrow the United States-backed government of Samuel Doe.

Mr Taylor later helped to form the RUF which Mr Bockarie joined just before it invaded Sierra Leone in 1991.

Mr Bockarie rose to the rank of deputy commander under the RUF's leader, Foday Sankoh - who is currently being tried by the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone.

When Mr Sankoh temporarily left the scene in the late 1990s, his underlings gave the ragtag RUF rebels a structure and - reportedly with support from Mr Taylor, who became Liberia's president that year - took the rich diamond mines of Sierra Leone.

With money from diamonds, the RUF was able to buy weapons and communications equipment.

When he fell out with Mr Sankoh allegedly over diamonds in 1999, Mr Bockarie and several hundred loyalists fled to Liberia where President Taylor provided him with villas.

But international pressure mounted forcing Mr Taylor to ask Mr Bockarie to leave in 2001.

The United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone has accused the Liberian president of sheltering the warlord and another fugitive, Johnny Paul Koroma.

Body mystery

President Taylor, who is under UN sanctions for allegedly backing the RUF, appears to have bowed to the pressure.

Sanctions on his government have just been extended for 12 months and will be widened to include the timber trade.

Liberian authorities say Mr Bockarie was killed by Liberian forces as he tried to enter the country from Ivory Coast with his bodyguards.

Many people would have preferred to see him captured alive and tried for his alleged crimes.

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07 May 03  |  Africa
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19 Jan 02  |  Africa
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29 Apr 03  |  Africa
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15 Mar 03  |  Africa


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