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France charges Liberia 'ex-militant' for crimes against humanity

© AFP/File | ULIMO fighters performing a war dance west of the Liberian capital Monrovia on September 2, 1992

PARIS (AFP) - 

France has detained a suspected former militant commander from Liberia's brutal civil war and charged him with crimes against humanity for alleged atrocities including torture and cannibalism, police said Friday.

A legal source said the man, identified as naturalised Dutch citizen Kunti K., is suspected of being a former commander in the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), which fought during the 1990s.

Arrested on Tuesday in the northeast Paris suburb of Bobigny where he had been hiding out at the home of a friend, he is suspected of torture, murder, slavery, the use of child soldiers and cannibalism between 1993 and 1997.

Liberia, Africa's oldest republic, formed by freed American slaves, was devastated by two civil wars which killed around 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003.

ULIMO was set up to fight a rebel force headed by warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor, who is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence for aiding and abetting rebels who committed atrocities in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Kunti K., born in 1974, was detained in a joint operation by elite GIGN police and officers from France's OCLCH agency, which investigates war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

"He had arrived in France in 2016, after leaving the Netherlands and passing through Belgium," said Colonel Eric Emeraux, head of the OCLCH.

Paris prosecutors had opened an initial investigation into Kunti K. after victims' rights group Civitas Maxima filed a criminal complaint on July 23.

Contacted by AFP, the Geneva-based group, which offers legal support to victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, declined to comment on the case.

© 2018 AFP