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Last Updated: Monday, 12 May, 2003, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Liberia to investigate warlord's death
Sierra Leone warlord, Sam Bockarie
Controversy surrounds Bockarie's death

The Liberian Government has ordered an investigation into the death of Sierra Leone rebel leader Sam Bockarie, who was wanted by the war crimes court in Freetown.

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea said on Monday that an investigation team of military experts would head to the border town of Bin-Houye where he is thought to have died.

"It's the right of the people to know what went wrong to lead to the death of Mr Bockarie and scores of our operators," he told the BBC.

There have been allegations that Mr Bockarie - known as Mosquito - was killed to prevent him giving damning evidence about regional figures at the tribunal.

The reason behind the investigation is to determine whether excessive force was used in bringing General Bockarie to book
Daniel Chea

Mr Bockarie had extensive contacts throughout West Africa, having trained with rebels who brought President Charles Taylor to power in Liberia; he was also allegedly involved in the killing of an Ivorian rebel leader Felix Doh.

The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) accused Mr Taylor of sending the warlord to his death so that he would never reveal anything about him to the court.

The Liberian authorities announced last week that the warlord had died of injuries after he and his bodyguards clashed with Liberian forces trying to arrest him.

But Liberian rebels say he died in a gun battle with their troops.

The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - the rebel group of which Mr Bockarie was a general - came to world attention over its systematic rape of women and abduction of thousands of children who were forced to fight.

Wanted man

Mr Bockarie, who died aged 40, was wanted by the tribunal for his alleged part in the atrocities

But there is still much confusion over the circumstances of his death and some people question whether he really is dead at all.

A month ago, the UN war crimes tribunal said Mr Bockarie and another key suspect, former coup leader Johnny Paul Koroma, were in Liberia.

"It's impossible... we are not involved," a spokesman for President Taylor said.

A defence ministry statement said Mr Bockarie's death was being investigated because "the orders given through the Ministry of National Defence to the men in the field concerning the arrest and detention of General Mosquito were not implemented accordingly".

Mr Chea has also demanded a report from the commander in charge at the time of warlord's killing.

"The reason behind the investigation is to determine whether excessive force was used in bringing General Bockarie to book, if his death could have been avoided, or if he could have been subdued without being killed," the statement said.

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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