MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) – Hundreds of men from Sierra Leone crossed the border into Liberia last week, destroying homes in an attack in a sensitive border area that straddles the two countries recovering from war, a regional official said Tuesday.
No deaths were reported, but at least five houses, two churches and two buildings used to store rice were destroyed when some 300 Sierra Leoneans crossed into the villages on the Liberian side in the country’s northern Foya region last Thursday, said Eugene Fallah Kparkar, the Congressional representative from the region.
Both Sierra Leone and Liberia are recovering from horrific civil wars, and the Foya region in Lofa County is where the final round of Liberia’s war started in 1999. Ex-President Charles Taylor, who is awaiting his verdict on crimes against humanity at The Hague, was accused of using the region to ferry fighters from Liberia into Sierra Leone to fuel that country’s war.
Kparkar, who represents the area in Liberia’s House of Representatives, told The Associated Press that the attack was apparently in retaliation for the death of a Sierra Leonean motorcyclist. The motorcyclist had apparently been beaten to death in Liberia, and then dumped on the Sierra Leone side, Kparkar said.
“The folks from Sierra Leone came in (great) numbers to the border towns, and in retaliation, decided to carry out this high-level vandalism,” Kparkar said. “We need to see how best we can address the situation in a way that will not have a spillover effect in the region.”
The incident was first reported Tuesday in the country’s independent press, and was confirmed by officials. The New Dawn newspaper estimated the attackers to be “around 300.”
The Sierra Leonean Ambassador to Liberia, Marie Jilo Barnett, told AP that her government has been informed. The embassy was awaiting an investigation into the incident before taking further action.