Global Policy Forum

Army 'Trained Sierra Leone Criminal'

BBC World News
September 10, 2000

The Royal Irish Regiment is training Sierra Leoneans British Army officials in Sierra Leone are investigating claims that they have just given military training to a woman accused of carrying out atrocities, including hacking off victims' limbs.

Earlier this week, the woman successfully completed a six-week training programme run by British forces in Sierra Leone to provide troops for the country's government.

A reintegration process in Sierra Leone allows former fighters from groups like the West Side Boys, who are currently holding six British soldiers hostage, to join the programme.

The woman at the centre of the allegations is known as "Cut Hands" after her action in a rampage through parts of the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown in early 1999. Former associates say that she abducted children and forced them to kill and hack off limbs.

Eighteen-year-old Suffice Makagia, who was with "Cut Hands" for a year, said: "Sometimes she made us shoot and kill everyone we saw but she always saved some people for us to amputate." The woman and 1,000 other Sierra Leoneans were being trained by soldiers from the Canterbury-based Royal Irish Regiment, whose colleagues are being held by the West Side Boys.

Proper screening

The British military commander in Sierra Leone, Lieutenant-Commander Tony Cramp, said there was a screening process for people entering the training programme, but it had been established in a time of emergency.

He said: "It is run by the Sierra Leonean army and we advise on it. It's coarse. The screening process was put in place when the security of Sierra Leone was in jeopardy. "When the situation stabilises the aim will be to put the proper screening process in place. It will include everyone, even those already in the frontline."

Lieutenant-Commander Cramp said the army was taking the claims about "Cut Hands" seriously. "With regards to this individual, obviously we didn't know about her, we have now got the information and will deal with it appropriately."

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