….Liberians Demand Justice
The arrest of Martina Johnson, former frontline commander of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) marks the beginning of the hunt of those who allegedly planned and executed the infamous ‘OPERATION OCTOPUS.’
Martina commanded an artillery unit of the NPFL at the time when the rebel group was in control of majority of Liberia, except for the Monrovia enclave. The attacks on the city at every front and the break-away group of Taylor’s forces, the INPFL, then commanded by Field Marshall Prince Y. Johnson, (now Senator of Nimba County, relieved profoundly on the West Africa Peace Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, to fend off the attacks.
Hundreds of Liberians trapped in the beleaguered city at the time had no choice, but to either live or die another day. Now with the arrest of Martina, some local civil society groups are calling on the international community to hunt for the strategists of the ‘octopus’ mayhem.
They claimed individuals who are allegedly responsible for the mayhem of Liberians and foreign nationals, including the five catholic nuns must be made to face justice. Civil society groups believe justice would end impunity in Liberia.
The NPFL quest to capture Monrovia started with an operation code name ‘Octopus’ which started October 15, 1992, when the NPFL attacked positions of the West African Peacekeeping Force, ECOMOG, backed by the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL).
During the clashes, five American nuns known to have been involved in humanitarian works in the country at the time were murdered allegedly by rebels of the NPFL. They were said to have been caught in the middle of fighting near Gardnersville as the NPFL made advances to overrun ECOMOG’s territories. Reports say the nuns had attempted to provide safety and welfare for Liberians who were wounded in the area when they were killed.
The nuns were identified as Sister Barbara Ann Muttra, Sister Agnes Mueller, Sister Kathleen McGuire, Sisters Shirley, Mary Joel Kolmer and Sister Mildred Gross.
Following the killing, the NPFL, headed by Mr. Taylor denied that his men were responsible for the killings. However, in a broadcast following the killing, he said it was really no-man's land at the time the incident occurred.