Sierra Leone requests extradition of civil war wild cats

Sierra Leone has called on neighbouring Liberia to arrest and extradite notorious ringleaders of war crimes committed during the country's decade-long civil war.

Sierra Leone's Special Court Chief Investigator, Dr Alan White, called for the extradition of the country's former rebel military commander, Sam Bockarie; and former junta ruler, Johnny Paul Koroma earlier this week.

The call follows the detention and subsequent preliminary trials of seven people prosecutors say are responsible for the war.

Victims of the Sierra Leone's brutal civil war - which began in March 1991 after armed combatants crossed the border from Liberia into the South-Eastern part of the country - remain sceptical Liberia will comply with the request.

Dr White says his team has evidence Liberian President, Charles Taylor, has access to the two men and has formally requested authorities in Monrovia, capital of the Republic of Liberia, to hand them over so they can be tried for crimes against humanity.

At least 50,000 people have died in fighting during the war and there are an estimated 100,000 victims of mutilation. The economy is in ruins and the country's infrastructure has collapsed.

"I have credible information that fugitive former AFRC junta leader, Johnny Paul Koroma, and one time RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie are in Liberia," White told journalists.

Johnny Paul Koroma, a former opposition Member of Parliament, fled Sierra Leone in January during a raid on his west Freetown residence in connection with a coup attempt he is alleged to have been involved in.

For his part, Sam Bockarie broke with the former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader, Foday Sankoh, in December 1999 and went into exile in Liberia.

While facing the threat of UN sanctions, Monrovia said in March 2001 that Bockarie had left the country but declined to say where he went. But White insists that Bockarie was "still near the Gbinta - Ivorian border just inside Liberia."

According to press reports, Sierra Leonean and Liberian mercenaries are under Bockarie's command and had been fighting alongside the Ivorian rebel group MPIGO in western Ivory Coast.

Further leaders of Mouvement Populaire Ivoirien du Grand Ouest (MPIGO) rebel faction - which emerged in western Ivory Coast after the conflict began - this week implicated Bockarie in Friday's ambush and execution of their leader, Sergeant Felix Doh, after the two groups allegedly had a falling out.