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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Liberia's women killers
Black Diamond (in red) says she wants to go to school
"Black Diamond" and her comrades may look like any bunch of street-wise girls with attitude but they have the military hardware to back up the look.

"Mortars are my favourite weapon," says the leader of a group of Liberian women rebel fighters - the Women's Artillery Commandos (WAC).

Even her enemies on the government side acknowledge her military strength.

"She is a really good fighter," said Peter Paye, a battalion commander for the government's Anti-Terrorist Unit. "I have a lot of respect for her."

I saw a woman shoot another officer because he raped a woman
Peter Coleman
Health Minister
Black Diamond, 22, says she joined the rebel forces after being gang-raped by the notoriously ill-disciplined and unpaid forces loyal to former President Charles Taylor in the northern Lofa county in 1999.

"There were many reasons, but that was the key one. It made me want to fight the man who caused all that, because if you are a good leader you can't behave like that," she is quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Fearsome punch

Many of Black Diamond's female comrades have similar tales, while others were recruited in refugee camps in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Although one, Musu Dukley, 28, told the British Guardian newspaper she first thought of taking up arms after seeing a woman with a machine-gun in a Hollywood film.

Many women tell of sexual abuse during the war
"She looked good. I found that when I pull out my gun I get more respect."

Earlier this month, the WAC was ordered to stop the free-for-all which had broken out at Monrovia's port, then controlled by the Lurd rebel group.

Black Diamond shot over the head of an armed looter who had not heeded her orders to drop his weapon and then punched the man - nearly twice her size - in the face, reports AP news agency.

He fell backwards, cowering and astonished.

I was at the front until I was eight-months pregnant
Black Diamond
Liberia's Health Minister Peter Coleman has met many women fighters during the 14 years of warfare and says they are prized by their senior commanders.

"They don't get drunk and they take their mission very seriously," he said.

"I saw a woman shoot another officer because he raped a woman."

Baby photo

Black Diamond attributes her rise through the rebel ranks partly to her traumatic experience.

"If you are angry, you get brave. You can become a master in everything."

She says that her parents were also killed during the four-year civil war.

Why some Liberian fighters wear wigs and carry charms.

"I am motherless, I am fatherless, so I don't care. God is my family now," she said.

But she does have a 10-month-old baby - "Small Diamond" - fathered by another rebel commander and keeps her photo in an envelope in her pocket.

"I was at the front until I was eight-months pregnant. I left her in Guinea. There was no one to take care of her here. But I will bring her back now that the war is over," she said.

Many of the women who fought for Charles Taylor when he was a warlord later joined the army when he became president.

But Black Diamond says she now wants to lay down her weapons, now that a ceasefire and a new power-sharing government have been agreed.

"We achieved our target: Taylor has left. I want to go to school.


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