Anti-Terrorist Unit (Liberia)

Country: Liberia
Details of Formation: The group as an official elite security force existed during Samuel Doe's time (until the rebellion of 1989). It was established by Charles Taylor in 1997 after he was elected President as an elite special force for the government and drew its membership from former National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) fighters as well as foreign combatants from Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Sierra Leone.
Details of Termination: Group ceased to be pro-government with the resignation of Taylor in August 2003. It was dissolved by the National Transitional Government of Liberia in 2003 and disarmed by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 2004.
Purpose: The government stated that the ATU would fight terrorism, protect government buildings, the international airport and foreign embassies. But the group has been described as a private security force of Taylor.
Organisation: Taylor’s son, Chuckie Taylor, rather than the Ministry of Defense, temporarily commanded the ATU. The ATU had close ties to the president, some reports stating that the group constituted his private security guards. It was considered an elite paramilitary force of the government.
Weapons and Training: The ATU was armed by the government. Its members, some of which already had experience from their activities in the NPFL, were trained by South African mercenaries in a military camp created by Taylor.
Size: --
Reason for Membership: Members were able to benefit from looting the local population for compensation. Loyalty to President Taylor from former NPFL fighters may also have been a reason for becoming a member. Members may have been paid little or nothing at all. One source reports that they were paid directly by Taylor and not by the government.
Treatment of Civilians: The ATU has been involved in a variety of crimes against civilians, including theft, looting, killings, beating, torture, abusing and detaining protesters, systematic rape, burning down towns and villages and recruiting child soldiers.
Other Information: The Anti-Terrorist Unit (Liberia) is also known as Demon Forces.
References: Amnesty International. “Chuckie Taylor convicted of torture.” 31 October 2008.

Amnesty International. 2001. “Liberia. Students Raped by Government Security Forces.” AI Index: AFR 34/013/2001.

Armstrong, Gary and James Rosbrook-Thompson. 2012. “Terrorizing defenses: Sport in the Liberian civil conflict.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 47(3): 358-378.

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