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Liberian Rebel Commander Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

He was accused of atrocities including having captives' hearts removed and eaten

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    U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    Mohammed "Jungle Jabbah" Jabbateh.

    A Delaware County, Pennsylvania, businessman has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after a federal court found he lied about his past as a Liberian warlord known for murdering his enemies -- and having their hearts cooked and eaten.

    Mohammed Jabbateh took part in atrocities during a civil war in the 1990s in the west African country. Prosecutors say he was known as "Jungle Jabbah," a feared commander in one of two warring military factions.

    He "committed various acts of shocking brutality including rapes, sexual enslavement, slave labor, murder, mutilation and ritual cannibalism. He also used children as soldiers," according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office Thursday.

    Jabbateh once ordered a captive's heart be cooked and fed to his fighters, according to the press release. He also ordered his fighters to murder a villager, removed his heart and forced the town chief's wife to cook it.

    He later had the town chief murdered -- and ordered his widow to cook her husband's heart.

    “This defendant committed acts of such violence and depravity that they are almost beyond belief,” said U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain. “This man is responsible for atrocities that will ripple for generations in Liberia. He thought he could hide here but thanks to the determination and creativity of our prosecutors and investigators, he couldn’t."


    Jabbateh was living in Lansdowne. He was charged with two counts of perjury for lying about his past to U.S. prosecutors, who could not charge him for the Liberian crimes. But he was sentenced to far more than the five years that each count carries.

    He is likely to be deported after he serves his sentence, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said.

    Some in greater Philadelphia's close-knit Liberian community know Jabbateh as a hard-working businessman. They had no idea that he was a man that prosecutors now link to the bloody war that left 200,000 dead and many thousands more maimed, raped and displaced.

    Liberian fighters loyal to Roosevelt Johnson's ULIMO-J faction battle in the back yards of the diplomatic area of the capital, Monrovia, Thursday May 23, 1996.
    Photo credit: (David Guttenfelder/Associated Press)

    The backdrop for such violence was a country divided by both military coups and ethnic hatred.

    "Chaos is too kind a word," said Maghan Keita, professor of history at Villanova University.


    He said very few Liberians escaped the war either as an aggressor or victim. Battlefields didn't exist and the brutality played on in villages and towns.

    “The main target becomes the coercion of civilian populations, as opposed to engagement with other combatants who are as heavily armed as you are," Keita said.