Liberian authorities have arrested a former armed forces chief and another retired officer for questioning over "subversive activities against the state," which could include a coup plot, officials said on Wednesday.
They said General Charles Julu, who had led a 1994 coup attempt and was a former presidential guard commander under slain Liberian President Samuel Doe, was detained along with Andrew Dorbor, a former colonel, on Tuesday.
"This man [Julu] was detained by the National Security Agency for subversive acts against the state," Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh said.
He declined to elaborate, saying an investigation was under way. "The Liberian public should remain calm. There is no immediate threat to the state," the minister said.
Bropleh's deputy at the ministry, Gabriel Williams, said Julu, who was pardoned in 1996 for his coup bid during Liberia's 14-year civil war, was being questioned, in the presence of his lawyer, about alleged "subversive activities."
"This could mean many things, plotting a coup, or training men, or other things that are against the state. But it is too soon to say," Williams said.
Liberia's on-off civil war ended in 2003, when an interim government backed by UN peacekeepers took over the devastated West African country after former warlord and president Charles Taylor went into exile.
The former Liberian leader was indicted in March 2006 on 11 counts related to cruelties committed by the Revolutionary United Front rebels during the 11-year civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone that ended in 2002.
Taylor is alleged to have backed the rebels, who murdered, raped, mutilated, tortured, enslaved and terrorized civilians in Sierra Leone, while fighting for control of the country's diamond mines.President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist, won elections in Liberia in late 2005 to become Africa's first elected female head of state.
Although a UN peacekeeping contingent remains in Liberia and Johnson-Sirleaf's rule has been relatively stable, the government has previously denounced what it has called "subversive activities," but there have been no convictions.
Former World Bank staffer Johnson-Sirleaf has declared a campaign against corruption and has traveled the world drumming up donor support for debt relief for Liberia and for her economic and social programs.
The UN Security Council lifted a wartime ban on Liberia's timber exports last year and ended a similar ban on diamond sales in April, paving the way for an economic recovery based on exploitation of the country's rich natural resources.
Liberia, meanwhile, has joined a global campaign to clean up natural resource industries and will extend it beyond minerals to cover the timber trade that helped fund its civil war, the African Development Bank said on Wednesday.
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