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Ex-Liberian fighter details Taylor's terror strategy

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Arthur Max
Associated Press / March 13, 2008

AMSTERDAM - During West Africa's civil wars, Charles Taylor encouraged his fighters to "play with human blood" to create fear among his enemies, a former militia commander testified yesterday at Taylor's war crimes trial.

Joseph Marzah described militia checkpoints meant to terrify the population, with human heads mounted on sticks and human intestines used as rope to barricade roads.

He said Taylor ordered him to kill civilians, telling him after one march into Bong County in Liberia that anyone there must be collaborating with the enemy.

"We executed everybody - babies, women, old men. There were so many executions. I can't remember them all," Marzah told the court.

Prosecutors described Marzah as one of their key witnesses, testifying with inside knowledge of the former Liberian president's operations in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone, where he is accused of responsibility for the widespread killings, rapes, and amputations committed by soldiers loyal to him.

Taylor, 59, is accused of trading "blood diamonds" mined in Sierra Leone and smuggled through Liberia to finance the civil war and of orchestrating the violence from his presidential palace in Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

The first former African head of state to face an international tribunal, Taylor has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He is being tried by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, which has been hearing the case in The Hague, Netherlands.

His trial began last year but was halted for six months after a chaotic first day on which he fired his legal team.

The case resumed in January, when prosecutors began calling the first of dozens of witnesses expected to testify.

Marzah, who described himself as Taylor's chief of operations and commander of the Death Squad that specialized in executions, said he smuggled both arms and diamonds for Taylor.

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