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MONROVIA (Reuters) - A former Liberian rebel leader accused of commissioning killings and recruiting child soldiers during a bloody civil war in the 1990s arrived in his West African country a free man late on Friday after being deported from the United States.
George Saigbe Boley, 62, was targeted by the first removal order made by a U.S. immigration court using the 2008 Child Soldiers Accountability Act, which allows a resident to be deported if they have recruited and used child soldiers.
Boley is the former leader of the Liberian Peace Council (LPC), a faction that fought against ex-President Charles Taylor's forces and some of whose members were accused of atrocities at Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"George Boley's removal is a major step in addressing the serious human rights abuses Mr. Boley perpetrated in Liberia in the 1990s," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton said in a statement.
"The United States has always welcomed refugees and those fleeing oppression, but we will not be a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals."
But it was not clear whether Boley, who upon arrival in Monrovia drove away with his lawyer and sister after clearing immigration formalities, would face any legal action in Liberia.
"He has been deported from the U.S. but he has committed no crime in Liberia," Bill Smith, spokesman for the Liberian Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization said on Friday in response to inquiries. No comment was available from the Justice Ministry.
Boley, who studied in the United States during the 1970s and is married to a U.S. woman, spent two years in detention before his deportation.
The wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone that killed more than 250,000 people during the 1990s will under the spotlight again next month with the April 26 verdict on Taylor in a U.N. war crimes court.
Taylor, the first African leader to go before an international tribunal, was accused on faced 11 counts of murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery.
(Reporting by Clair MacDougall; Editing by Mark John and Alison Williams)
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