July 25, 2001

Human Rights Watch has interviewed numerous victims and witnesses who described attacks by the CDF militias in June and July against the RUF-controlled towns of Worodu, Yiraia, Sukudu and Mansofinia. In the four attacks documented by Human Rights Watch, at least twenty-four civilians, including nine women and nine children were killed, and some nineteen more civilians, including eleven children, were wounded.

Interviews with Victims and Witnesses

"Abu," was shot in his abdomen and through both legs, during the June 17, 2001 attack on Yiraia by CDF militiamen. He described how he and his ten-year-old son, shot through the knee, hid under the bed while the attackers looted their house. Abu, also lost also lost his mother, father, five-year-old son and twenty-eight-year old sister in the attack:

When we heard the gunshots my children yelled, "father, they're going to kill us." I had all my family stand behind me and cracked open the door to make sure it was safe for us to run. But as I did, I saw three Kamajors standing in front of our door and just seconds later they opened fire. I fell down and together with my young son, slithered on my back into the bedroom and under the bed. As I did I saw my mother and sister lying there struggling to die. I heard my father, who is blind, yelling, "they're killing me." We hid there for almost an hour listening to the gunfire and sounds of them singing and clapping. They one yelled, "ceasefire," and shortly after I heard footsteps coming into the house. My son, who'd been shot through the knee, was crying from the pain but I told him if he didn't be silent they'd kill us. Thank God they didn't find us. Sometime later my brother came into the house and pulled us out but a few meters from the house I found my father's body. I guess he'd tried to find his way out of the house and was caught. My brother and I cried as we passed by his body; he was lying on his back and it looked like his stomach had been cut open.

They put my son and I down next to some other wounded. A few yards away they were laying down the bodies of the dead. Over the next hour they kept bringing more and more bodies from all over the village. I counted twenty-four dead including two RUF combatants. I knew every one of them.

"Sara," age twelve, was left for dead during the Yiraia attack, after they cut at least five gashes around her neck with a machete. Her mother was shot and killed just meters away. She described:

As my mother and I tried to run out of the house we saw about eight Kamajors. Most had guns and a few had machetes. My mother dashed down the verandah but they caught her and then shot her. She fell about five meters from the house. By this time several of them had surrounded me. They ordered me to sit down and one held me tight by the head while the other cut my neck with his machete. I tried to protect my neck with my left hand but they slashed it. They said in the Kono language, "you'll be dead - all of you are RUF wives." After cutting me, I lie still, pretending to be dead. I was bleeding so much. After a while I heard them say, "she done die." Then I crawled into the bush and hid until my family came to help me.

"Aminata," who had just given birth three days before a June 17, 2001 attack on the town of Worodu, described seeing her younger sister shot as the CDF militias attacked the town:

I was lying in bed with my newborn baby. I'd sent my younger sister Fina to go tend to the rice field earlier in the morning. Suddenly, Fina came running into the house and said the RUF had told all civilians to leave the town because the CDF were about to attack. As I struggled to get up we started hearing gunfire. I started gathering my things but Fina said, "leave everything, let's go." As we neared the end of the village I was in terrible pain and insisted that we hide in a nearby house. Fina wanted to keep going and as we were arguing, a bullet caught her. I yelled, "Fina, Fina, get up," but she died quickly. I rushed over to get Fina's three year old girl who'd been strapped to her back and only then did I see that the same bullet had also gone through both of the child's legs.' I saw the CDF clapping and singing as they approached the town and ran quickly into the house to hide. The wounded girl cried but I told her to shhh. Later we slipped out the back and into the bush.

"Mani," a twenty-four-year old coffee farmer from Sukudu village in Kono District, had recently returned to his village after spending three years as a refugee in Guinea. He described how he was shot through both legs by CDF-militiamen during an attack on his village on July 11, 2001, and was accused by the CDF of being an RUF combatant:

At around 7:00 a.m. I was getting ready to go spend the day in the fields when I heard a few gunshots. At first I thought it was the RUF who hang around our village letting off a few rounds. There were usually four RUF rebels who're based in our village and besides making us give them rice, they pretty much leave us alone. Then, as I was leaving my house I started hearing more firing and suddenly saw a Kamajor standing about ten meters in front of me. As I tried to run I saw him aim his gun directly at me and fire. The bullet went through both of my legs. Then as the firing was going on, the Kamajor ran into the town and I pulled myself into the bush to hide. They looted our village; my brother was abducted by them to carry away the loot. After walking to their base in a village called Yaradu-Sandor, he was let go. Now we have nothing and I can't walk. We came back from Guinea because we heard there was a ceasefire and that everything would be ok. I came as a refugee with practically nothing and now I have even less.

In the first week of July, RUF rebels attacked the village of Porpon, killing at least three children and wounding several more civilians. An elderly man, also interviewed by Human Rights Watch, had his left ear cut off. At least sixteen civilians were abducted to carry away looted property. One of the abducted described the brutal killing of the children and explained why he believed the RUF's attack was retaliation for the June 17 attack on the village of Yiraia.

It's farming season and on the day of the attack I was in the fields with six of my friends and family members, including three children. At around 10:30 a.m. I suddenly saw nine armed men; some in uniform and some in civilian dress. Five had guns and the rest were with machetes. We know the RUF and I recognized at least three of them. We've been living with them for years and since the ceasefire hadn't had too many problems except their system of forced taxation for money and rice. We tried to run but they caught five of us, including the children aged ten, five and about two. They tied us together at the waist and told us to start walking. One of the RUF was carrying the two year old. They said, "today some of you will die; you people are Kamajors." As we walked the children were crying and slowing us down. The commander was complaining and about half an hour later, he ordered us to halt and then took his machete and started hitting us. First he hit me twice on the head and on my left arm, and then he started hitting the children one after the other. It was pathetic. The children were crying and begging but he killed them anyway. We had to leave them right there by the side of the path. Then we walked into Porpon where I saw other RUF's had captured seven more of us from the village. After giving us all loot to carry, they walked us to Yiraia where we saw RUF big man Demba Marrah who started accusing us of being Kamajors. He was angry because some weeks earlier the Kamajros had attacked his village and killed many of his people including his mother. But we have nothing to do with it. The Kamajors have never even come to our village. He told us to strip off our clothes and then put us in a house and there we found even more people from our village. The RUF would always come around and tell us we were going to be killed. Two days some shots were fired, and in the panic I was able to run away.