Liberia: Ex-LURD Gen. “K-1” Arrested in US

Laye Sekou Camara, aka “General Dragon Master,” accused of committing acts of brutality in the Second Liberian Civil War, has been charged with using a fraudulently obtained immigration document in Pennsylvania. Above, a photo allegedly shows a Liberian rebel group including Camara, left, celebrating near Monrovia, Liberia, on August 5, 2003.GEORGES GOBET/AFP/GETTY

MONROVIA — A once feared general of the LURD rebel group, Sekou Kamara, commonly known as “K-1” has been arrested in the US on immigration fraud charges.

LURD is the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy—a group that forced then Liberian President, Charles Taylor out of power during the country’s second civil war in August 2003.

LURD committed 18,797 or 12% of all atrocities reported to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, during the first and second civil wars, including rape, murder, torture and looting. The numbers are only second to Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia, NPFL committed during the first war—63, 843, or 39%, the report added.

But the report did not mention General “K-1”, although the TRC said its findings of human rights violations of the wars are not exhaustive.

Similar to “Jungle Jabbah” and Woewiyu, who were prosecuted by the same United States District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania that has placed this charge, Karama is accused of lying to US immigration authorities about his role in the LURD rebel faction in order to enter the US, obtain a permanent residence card (also known as ‘green card’) and then use it to obtain further documents.

Prosecutors allege Kamara, also nicknamed by civilians during the war as the “More Mortar Man”, denied being a a member or involved in a “paramilitary unit, vigilante group, rebel group, guerrilla or insurgent organization” in immigration forms on his first visit to the US. It is a violation to lie in US immigration processes and can be deemed a criminal violation if the actions underpinning the lie are egregious. 

The complaint says Mr Kamara appears in several media reports of the Second Liberian Civil War, including a New York Times article dated from 2003, and a documentary.

A report by the US based rights group Human Rights Watch, placed LURD on its “Tier III’ terrorist group list for alleged violent activities and human right violations committed by all parties during the wars. If the case goes to trial Kamara would be the first member of the LURD faction to face prosecution for crimes committed in Liberia’s second civil war.

The General’s arrest by New York State authorities was based on a criminal complaint submitted by the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last week, according to a statement jointly issued by two rights organizations—the Global Justice and Research Project and its Swiss counterpart, Civitas Maxima. The two organizations have been instrumental in the investigations, arrests, and prosecutions of alleged Liberian war criminals in the US or Europe, including the conviction and sentencing of ex-ULIMO commander, Alieu Koisah in Switzerland in June 2021. Kosiah was the first Liberian to be directly prosecuted for his role during any of Liberia’s two civil ears.

Investigations by the rights groups have also separately led to the arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of Mohammed Jabbateh, commonly known as “Jungle Jabbah” and Thomas Woewiyu, both by the same Eastern Pennsylvania prosecutors who brought the Kamara case.

Jabbateh was convicted and sentenced to 30-year in prison by United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2017, a ruling affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia in September 2020.

In 2018, Woewiyu, a spokesman for Taylor’s NPFL warring faction, was also convicted of immigration fraud and perjury. But he died of COVID-19 in 2020 while awaiting sentencing.

Investigations by GJRP and CM also led to the arrest and prosecution of Sierra Leonean rebel leader, Gibril Massaquoi in Finland in 2020 for his alleged role during Liberia’s second civil war.

Massaquoi has been released from prison, with his verdict expected in April. Another trial of Ulimo member Kunti K. is due to begin in France later this year.

If it goes to trial Kamara’s prosecution will take place in Philadelphia, just as it was with “Jungle Jabbah” and Woewiyu. It will be the third such case of an alleged Liberian warlords prosecuted in the district.

Kamara’s case is the ninth public case since 2012 in which GJRP and Civitas Maxima have provided assistance to U.S. and European authorities. This is the only possible way, at least for now, to hold alleged Liberian war criminals to account for their roles during any of the country’s civil wars because Liberia has yet to legislate a court for such a purpose.

The trials have added to public pressure on the Weah administration to support legislative bills that would set up the court.

This story was produced in collaboration with New Narratives as part of its West Africa Justice Reporting Project.