Ibrahim Bah, who acted as a liaison between former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and a rebel army of child soldiers in neighbouring Sierra Leone, has been arrested in Freetown, according to a reliable and well-placed source.
For years, Bah managed the pipeline that fed weapons and other materiel such as satellite phones to the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds sent back to Liberia.
Child soldiers filled the RUF’s ranks. Enslaved Sierra Leonean civilians mined the diamonds.
Last year the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone found Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, terrorism, and conscripting child soldiers.
The Special Court concluded that Bah was a “trusted emissary” for both Taylor and the RUF.
Bah has been the subject of a United Nations travel ban since 2004, accused of being an arms dealer in contravention of a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Liberia cease its support for rebels in Sierra Leone.
Originally from Senegal, Bah fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and briefly with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, according to Douglas Farah, author of Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror. He also trained in terror camps run by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi — for whom he served as bodyguard.
Charles Taylor first met Bah in Libya in 1988. The following year, with Gadhafi’s support and fighters from his camps, Taylor launched a rebellion against the Liberian government of Samuel Doe. The subsequent civil war lasted seven years and killed some 200,000 people. There was a brief lull during which Taylor was elected president, and then another four-year phase of the war began in 1999, killing tens of thousands more.
Shortly after beginning the Liberian civil war, Taylor helped create the RUF, which triggered a bloody civil war in Sierra Leone that lasted until 2002.
Ibrahim Bah’s role running diamonds and weapons made him rich. Farah says Taylor pocketed about a third of what international dealers paid for the RUF-mined diamonds. Bah got half of that. The weapons they sent in exchange were worth far less than the diamonds.
Bah disappeared about a decade ago and was thought to be in Burkina Faso. This year a UN panel of experts report placed him in Sierra Leone. Today Human Rights Watch urged Sierra Leone to open an investigation into Bah’s alleged crimes.
There are conflicting reports out of Sierra Leone concerning Bah’s status. Today a police official said a man sharing Bah’s name had been arrested but was released after he claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity. The Maclean’s source says the Ibrahim Bah who was arrested is in fact Taylor’s former associate, and he suspects the man is still in custody.