Report Details Sierra Leone-Terrorist Link

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(Rapaport…November 14, 2002) Conflict diamonds mined in Sierra Leone helped fund the civil war in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a new report by nongovernmental organization (NGO) Partnership Africa Canada.

Elements within Sierra Leone’s Lebanese community present “major obstacles to meaningful reform” of the country, the report says. It links Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels with the al-Qaida and Hezbollah terrorist groups, as well as the former Taliban government in Afghanistan.

“Much of the evidence linking West Africa’s Lebanese diaspora to global terror networks is anecdotal and circumstantial,” the report says. “Lebanese involvement with the RUF is also largely anecdotal, but in both cases the stories are supported by generations of shady business practice, and by the strong interest of some Lebanese in the virulent politics of the Middle East.”

Sierra Leone will remain unstable as long as fighting continues in neighboring Liberia, the report adds. It recommends maintaining a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone for years, keeping the UN arms embargo against Liberia in place and putting a private security force into Sierra Leone’s diamond mining regions. It says the Lebanese business community should institute self-reform while the government should establish a diamond investigation team in the country’s Anti-Corruption Unit. Educating legitimate diamond diggers, complying with the Kimberley Process regime and attracting foreign investment are also seen as necessary improvements.

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