Liberia probes coup plot, finds arms cache

Liberian authorities investigating a possible coup plot have discovered a large cache of new AK-47 ammunition in a town on the main road to Côte d’Ivoire, police said on Monday.

Police spokesperson Alvin Jask Kanneh said it was too early to say whether the cache was linked to an alleged scheme to smuggle weapons into Liberia from Côte d’Ivoire.

A former armed forces chief and a former speaker of Parliament were charged with treason last month in connection with the plot.

The ammunition cache was discovered on Sunday in the town of Gbarnga by Liberian police and a team from the United Nations peacekeeping force, which is helping the country recover from a 14-year on-off civil war that ended in 2003.

”Most of the ammunition was new. We are talking about AK-47 machine-gun ammunition. Also, different types of weapons ammunitions. We cannot give you the total quantity, but [it was] large,” Kanneh said.

A security source in the capital, Monrovia, said the ammunition was discovered in an unfinished building following a tip-off received in Monrovia.

”As of now, we have not made any arrest as the investigation is still ongoing in the place. We cannot say who are those behind this,” Kanneh said.

General Charles Julu, who led a 1994 coup attempt during the civil war, and former National Assembly speaker George Koukou were charged with treason in July after the publication of a video that Liberian authorities said showed two associates of Julu discussing how to transport weapons from Côte d’Ivoire.

Julu was arrested in mid-July for ”subversive activities”, which officials said may include a coup plot against the government of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was elected president in late 2005.

The Russian-designed Kalashnikov AK-47, the world’s best-known assault-rifle, became ubiquitous during the Cold War and was a weapon of choice for tens of thousands of soldiers and children who have fought in civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire since the late 1980s.

Gbarnga served as a headquarters for the rebellion led by Charles Taylor, who went on to be elected president in 1997, was forced into exile in 2003 and is now on trial on war crimes charges stemming from Sierra Leone’s intertwined civil war. — Reuters

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