The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: Defense Orders Confinement of Soldier in Gbarnga

Normal activities in Gbarnga, Bong County were disrupted yesterday morning for about three hours, as a result of a protest staged by hundreds motorcyclists in the city. Our reporter who just returned from the city revealed that the incident occurred when an AFL soldier allegedly pierces a motorcyclist identify as Perry Togbah on his head and several parts of his body. The incident took place just a stone thrown from the Gbarnga Iron Gate before the eyes of immigration and the Liberia National Police (LNP) officers.

The name of the AFL personnel has was not disclosed by authorities of both the LNP and officials of the Ministry of Defense in Gbarnga. According to eyewitnesses, the soldier took the action when his girlfriend allegedly refused to pay the motorcyclist the specific fees charged from central Gbarnga to the intersection of the Camp Tubman military training center.

The eyewitnesses quoted the driver identified as Perry as saying that he earlier charged the girlfriend of the soldier L$30 which she accepted but later decided to give the motorcyclist L$20 upon their arrival at the intersection after Iron Gate.

At that moment, according to eyewitnesses, argument ensued between the both of them with Perry holding on the plastic bag of the girl requesting his balance money. The AFL soldier who has gone to await his girlfriend allegedly rushed on the scene and reportedly pulled out a scissor from the black plastic bag of his girlfriend and begun stabbing Perry on his head and other parts of his body.

Our reporter said following the incident, Perry was hurriedly taken to the Phebe Hospital by a commercial driver because he was seriously bleeding with blood oozing from several parts of his body.

The incident according to information brought hundreds of pen-pen riders on the streets and decided to place a road block thus preventing the free movement of commercial, government officials, NGOs vehicles from entering the main city.

Our information revealed that the motorcyclists went to the extent of burning tires on the street and breaking into market tables using them as weapon to harm anyone who may want to differ with them on their protest action.

After nearly two hour, the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the LNP was deployed to kind the situation but was later met with strong resistance from the pen-pen boys. Teargas was thrown to disburse the crowd and was later put under control. Report says the AFL soldier has been taken to Monrovia for questioning while Perry is responding to treatment at the hospital.

Meanwhile, when contacted yesterday, Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai expressed regret over the incident and said that the soldier involved has been confined, awaiting investigation in keeping with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). He said five minutes after the incident, when the Ministry was notified, the commander took disciplinary steps.

He said senior officers of the Armed forces of Liberia and Deputy Minister for Operations Joseph Johnson were dispatched immediately following the incident.

He said the Deputy Minister met with the victim and county officials on the incident. He said an attempt by some civilians to forcibly enter the barrack in the area was prevented by the soldiers and that "no weapon was used in the incident."

Asked that the soldier was claiming that he carried out the incident in self-defense, Minister Samukai said the matter is now with the investigators, adding, "I cannot comment on such while investigation is ongoing."

Meanwhile, the minister said the situation has been brought under control.

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