34 Maryland Youths Charged for Rioting That Destroyed Over US$2.3 Million in Property

PLEEBO, Maryland – The Liberia National Police has charged 34 persons connected to widespread protests and rioting in Maryland that caused over US$2.3 million in damage to private and public properties.

The unrest began after the alleged ritualistic killing of a commercial motorcyclist on March 25. The five suspects of that killing have since been arrested and will soon appear in court.

Before the arrest of all the perpetrators, protesters had marched across Maryland, calling for justice. They set up roadblocks and looted and vandalized properties. Protesters also stormed the Harper Central Prison and set the ground floor ablaze, destroying documents and equipment. Their actions led to the escape of 91 inmates from the facility, including one of the ritualistic killing suspects, Moses Malmah.

Angry protesters vandalized the Harper Central Prison. Photo: Bryan Dioh Jr

Malmah was rearrested by officers at Webbo checkpoint in River Gee while escaping from the region. Sources at the Harper Central Prison have told The Bush Chicken that most of the escaped inmates have still not been recaptured.

County Attorney Phillip G. Weaygar said many of the 91 inmates who escaped were pretrial detainees, although some had already been convicted and were serving their respective jail sentences.

Police have accused the leadership of the Maryland Youth Association of rallying protesters to loot and damage properties across Harper and Pleebo, including the home of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers. The youth association’s Thomas Kumah, Mohammed Senneh, and Fasu Konneh were named in the police charge sheet.

The police noted that the protests had destroyed US$2.3 million worth of private and public properties.

Angry protesters burned Speaker Bhofal Chambers’ home. Photo: Bryan Dioh Jr

County Attorney Weaygar said it was not clear where the trial of the 34 youths would take place, but because the offenses were committed in Maryland, he expected the trial to occur in the county. He has promised a speedy investigation into the matter and called on citizens to remain calm.

Weaygar told reporters that the 34 suspects were sent to the Grand Grdeh Correction Palace because the Harper Central Prison was still damaged.

The Maryland Youth Association’s president and one of the suspects, Thomas Kumah, is a graduating senior of Tubman University in the College of Health Sciences Department of Public Health. He was expected to defend his thesis and graduate by the end of May.

In Monrovia, Police Spokesman Moses Carter appeared on a radio station where he called the Liberia National Police’s operation to restore calm to Maryland successful.

“We also had meetings with the local authority of Harper and Pleebo relative to their concern of ritualistic killings and the issue of justice,” Carter said. “They were assured of our resolve to ensure that they get justice and that the issue of ritualistic killings will be fought hereon, but it will be a joint effort as it was done collectively to get the 34 persons arrested.”

Carter called on citizens to play an active role in helping to police their communities by feeding the authorities with information on the crimes that occurred over the past month. He promised that law enforcement officers would ensure confidentiality for tipsters.

Featured photo by Edward H. Stemn/Sky FM

George Momo

George K. Momo is also a correspondent of Liberia Broadcasting System and manager of Cape Rock Radio. He serves as acting president of the Maryland Press Association and the secretary-general of the South Eastern Journalist Association of Liberia. He is the Press Union of Liberia 2018 Human Rights Reporter award winner. George started his journalism career in Kakata at Atlantic Radio; he has over eight years working experience in community radio journalism. George is also a senior student of William V.S. Tubman University College of Education majoring in Early Childhood Education.

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