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The RUF made extensive use of child soldiers, using horrific methods to numb their new recruits to barbarity. Thousands of abducted boys were forced to serve as soldiers and the girls, as well as some of the boys, were forced into prostitution. Those chosen to be soldiers were sometimes forced to murder their own parents. Guerrillas frequently carved the initials "RUF" on their chests, and officers reportedly rubbed coc aine into open cuts on their troops to make them manic and fearless. For entertainment, some soldiers would bet on the sex of an unborn baby and then slice open a woman's womb to determine the winner. It is also believed that cannibalism was a hobby of some RUF members.
Main article: Revolutionary United Front
In March 1991, a small band of men who called themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the leadership of a former-corporal, Foday Sankoh, began to attack villages in eastern Sierra Leone on the Liberian border. The RUF's signature terror tactic was physical mutilation. An estimated 20,000 civilians suffered amputation, with machetes and axes being used to sever arms, legs, lips, and ears. Fighting continued in the ensuing months, with the RUF gaining control of the diamond mines in the Kono District and pushing the Sierra Leone army back towards Freetown. RUF members would often destroy villages and kill most of the civilians except a few men and boys aging anywhere from 7 to around 40. They would kill anyone that tried to escape. Other civilians were mutilated and sent to neighboring villages as a warning. They would sometimes take a few civilians as hostages to stop the military from attacking them. After the rebels ran out of supplies in a village, they would often burn it and kill whoever remained.
The RUF launched its first campaign into eastern Kailahun (Sierra Leone) from Liberia on March 23, 1991. In the four months following, about 107,000 refugees fled the conflict into Guinea. Foday Sankoh was head of the military wing of the RUF. According to Sierra Leone and writer Abdul Koroma, the rebels were quick to demonstrate their brutality, decapitating community leaders and putting their heads on stakes.
Forced recruitment of children was also a later feature of the government strategy. The intellectuals in the RUF opposed the methods being used, but within the first year of the rebellion these individuals had been eliminated as Sankoh took over the movement. Among the victims were two of Sankoh's allies.
In Sierra Leone, the Socialist Islamic terrorist organization RUF (Revolutionary United Front) kidnapped 20 members of the U.N. Assistance Mission and opened fire on a UNAMSIL facility, and thereby burst onto the world scene. The militants killed five U.N. soldiers in the attack. RUF jihadists kidnapped another 300 UNAMSIL peacekeepers throughout the country. In Freetown, armed militants ambushed two military vehicles carrying four journalists. A Spaniard and one U.S. citizen were killed in a car bombing in which the RUF was responsible. Suspected RUF rebels also kidnapped 21 Indian U.N. peacekeepers in Freetown on June 6. Additional attacks by RUF on foreign personnel followed.
At the end of 1989, Charles Taylor launched an attack on Samuel Doe's government with a small band of men. Several of them, including Taylor himself, had received training in Libya from the Muslim Marxist Qaddafi. Taylor received considerable support from Foday Sankoh and the RUF.
A humanitarian crisis resulted in the early ‘90s from the RUF's tactics, which followed Islamic protocol and involved brutal attacks on unarmed civilians and children. Attempting to copy the ethnic and religious incitement that had served Charles Taylor in Liberia, the RUF like their mentor Muhammad, targeted traders, plundering and beheading more than 100. These atrocities and others caused rapid and widespread displacement.
Until about 1995, it was unclear what the RUF stood for, who Foday Sankoh was, and what he wanted. In his Revolutionary United Front's Footpaths to Democracy, he proclaimed that his stated purpose was identical to the murderous sexual pervert Mao Zedong and Frantz Fanon (known as Abdullah, or Slave to Allah).
The RUF war in Sierra Leone ultimately caused the death of 75,000 people and forced over half of the country's population to leave their homes. The Muslim Marxist Revolutionary United Front waged a terrorist campaign which included the deliberate and systematic mutilation of civilians. Brutal attacks on non-military targets and public executions of minority ethnic groups where commonplace, producing millions of refugees. The RUF had two major calling cards: dead civilians and thousands of people with their hands, feet, ears or genitals crudely amputated. Amputations on children were particularly prevelant. It was as if they had read Qur'an 5:33: "The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and his Prophet and perpetrate disorders in the land is to kill them or crucify them, or have a hand on one side and a foot on the other side cut off, banishing them from the land. Such is their disgrace in the world and in the hereafter their doom shall be dreadful.".
In October 1990, president Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to review the 1978 one-party constitution. Based on the commission recommendations a constitution re-establishing a multi-party system was approved by Parliament by a 60% majority vote, becoming effective on October 1, 1991. By November 1991, political oppostion became active once again in Sierra Leone. But there was great suspicion that Momoh was not serious, and APC rule was increasingly marked by abuses of power.
Civil war broke out, mainly due to government corruption and mismanagement of diamond resources. Besides the internal ripeness, the brutal civil war going on in neighboring Liberia played an undeniable role in the outbreak of fighting in Sierra Leone. Charles Taylor—then leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia—reportedly helped form the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the command of former Sierra Leonean army corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh, an ethnic Temne from Tonkolili District in Northern Sierra Leone. Sankoh was a British trained former army corporal who had also undergone guerrilla training in Libya. Taylor’s aim was for the RUF to attack the bases of Nigerian dominated peacekeeping troops in Freetown who were opposed to his rebel movement in Liberia.
The RUF, led by Sankoh and backed by Taylor, launched its first attack in villages in Kailahun District in eastern Sierra Leone from Liberia on March 23, 1991. The government of Sierra Leone, overwhelmed by a crumbling economy and corruption, was unable to put up significant resistance. Within a month of entering Sierra Leone from Liberia, the RUF controlled much of the Eastern Province, including the diamond areas of Kailahun and Kono District. Forced recruitment of child soldiers was also an early feature of the rebel strategy.