Liberian authorities arrest diamond smugglers

Under threat of international sanctions, Liberia has announced the arrest of six foreigners suspected of smuggling diamonds into the West African country from war-ruined Sierra Leone, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The six people were arrested last week near the Mano River bridge, on Liberia’s northwestern border with Sierra Leone, the defense ministry said in a statement issued late Thursday.


They include two Sierra Leoneans-a police officer and a member of a pro-government militia-the statement said. The nationalities of the other suspects were not given, the AP reported.


The suspects were being questioned at defense headquarters in the capital, Monrovia, and would later be turned over to the Bureau of Immigration, the statement said.


A United Nations-commissioned investigation accused Liberia of illegal diamond and weapons trafficking with Sierra Leone’s brutal rebels.


In March, the U.N. Security Council gave Liberia two months to prove it had ended all support for the rebels or face travel restrictions and an embargo on its diamond exports.


Sierra Leone’s rebels have killed tens of thousands of civilians and raped and mutilated many more in a 10-year campaign to overthrow the government and secure control of that country’s lucrative diamond mines.


The Security Council also revived its arms embargo on Liberia, reinstating one imposed during the nation’s 1989-96 civil war.


Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was implicated in the U.N.-commissioned investigation, has denied the accusations but has promised to comply with U.N. demands.