Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Liberia: gruesome murder of Catholic nuns explained

Nearly 16 years ago five Catholic nuns who were carrying out their unselfish work in Liberia were savagely murdered.

The impact of their labours was widely acknowledged but like other unfortunate citizens without firepower, theirs was the unfortunate fate of falling victims to death beyond the ordinary.

Now, almost 16 years after their gruesome killing, what appears to be the truth as to how and who killed the Catholic nuns has emerged with apparent fascinating precision.

Sr. Barbara Ann Muttra, ASC, Sr. Shirley Kolmer, ASC, Sr. Joel Kolmer, ASC, Sr. Agnes Mueller, ASC and Kachleen McGuire, ASC, lost their lives in the October 1992 "Operation Octopus" launched by disbanded National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).

Following their gruesome murder, the leader of the defunct NPFL, Charles Taylor (pictured), dismissed the claims that his men who had then besieged Monrovia committed the act.

He blamed the incident on the peacekeeping forces that were helping the Liberian government to repel the Operation Octopus attack.

At the Public Hearings for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission which began in Monrovia some weeks ago, a man, Morris Padmore, who confessed to being a former general of the rebel faction, told the Commission hearing that NPFL rebel forces, under the command and supervision of Gen. Christopher "Mosquito" Vambo were responsible for the killing of the Catholic nuns in the Barnerville Junction.

The former NPFL General Morris Padmore alias 'Vision 38', said upon capturing Barnesville junction in the Garnerville area, all women were rounded up within that terrain by the first batch of NPFL fighters.

He said the fighters conducted house to house searches following a period of fierce fighting between the NPFL and ECOMOG aided by the defunct 'Black Berets', a unit of the Armed Forces of Liberia trained and constituted during the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) presided over by Dr. Amos Sawyer.

The NPFL ex-fighter, who claimed he was recruited in Kakata by the NPFL at the tender age of 15 in 1990, Morris Padmore disclosed that the NPFL fighters who arrived in the Barnerville, Gardnersville Junction area brought three white women, who were without clothes to the rest of the fighters.

He told the TRC public hearings that the three white women were ordered to be raped on the command of Gen. Christopher "Mosquito" Vambo, who was in charge of the octopus operation in 1992.

Those martyrs, according to Morris Padmore, were later killed with many fighters thrusting sticks and other objects into them.

When quizzed by the commissioners on what was the women dress code of the women, Gen. 'Vision 38' said the women were brought to his position naked as a result he could not identify them by any dress code.

It was in October 1992 that five nuns were trapped in the NPFL control area of Bardnerville Junction in the Gardnerville area during the 'octopus' on Monrovia. The operation began in Johnsonville, Diggsville and Bardnersville and Gardnersville.

During the incident, the Catholic Church of Liberia through Archbishop Michael K. Francis complained the killing of the nuns to the international community stating that five Catholic nuns had been inevitably trapped in that area that was under the control of NPFL forces for about two months.

Charles Taylor is now on trial in The Hague.
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