December 1st, 2006 08:06 EST
FBI New Office in Sierra Leone
Eleven years of civil war in the West African nation of Sierra Leone left tens of thousands dead and millions more displaced. Now, as the country works to stabilize its government, it has a new partner to help reestablish its police and investigative forces: the FBI.
It's not a long-distance relationship. With the permission of the Sierra Leone government, we now have a Legal Attaché or Legat office staffed with a special agent and support staff in the U. S. Embassy in the capital city of Freetown. The Legat gives us an established on-the-ground presence in Sierra Leone. The office also covers Liberia, a neighbor to the southeast.
“These two countries are recovering from traumatic, costly, and deadly civil wars,” said Special Agent Alvie Price, our Legal Attaché in Freetown. “Being here, we can help both nations organize their police agencies to combat the most serious and pervasive threats…and they can help us better understand and stop threats that might migrate to U.S. shores.”
Today, we have nearly 60 such Legats throughout the world, including seven in Africa. Each faces its own set of circumstances and challenges, but all work on the premise that relationships are best forged in person.
Already, our working relationships with Liberia and Sierra Leone are strong and improving with each successful investigation. “They are looking to be more active and productive partners in the war on international terrorism,” said Price, who arrived in Freetown in July. "They're also showing the world they're serious about combating lawlessness and becoming active partners in the war against international terrorism."
In August, two FBI agents led a five-day course on intelligence analysis for investigators from four agencies in the two countries. Along the way, the offices learned to rely on the FBI for help when working on cases like human trafficking, organized crime, drug trafficking, and international terrorism.
A recent case shows how the relationships we’ve developed in Liberia and Sierra Leone are paying dividends—for all concerned.
- Liberian officials helped identify, locate, and remove a 14-year-old rape victim and her mother from Liberia to Australia so they could testify against the girl's attacker. Assailants had previously kidnapped and detained the pair for six days when they initially tried to leave Liberia. FBI and Liberian National Police thwarted no less than four additional attempts to keep the two women from leaving Liberia to testify. Once the victim/witness were in Australia the subject pled guilty to the sexual assault charges.
“Without a team effort, this family would have been prevented from testifying,” Price said. “We look forward to celebrating more of these team successes.”