Federal prosecutors have charged a Liberian immigrant living in East Landsdowne with concealing his participation in horrific war crimes when he applied for asylum in the U.S.
Mohammed Jabatteh, reportedly known as "Jungle Jabbah," was arrested Tuesday morning on charges that he concealed his past as a commander in The United Liberation Movement for Democracy (ULIMO) in Liberia, a rebel group that participated in battle for control of Liberia.
Prosecutors say Jabbateh commited multiple war crimes with ULIMO before immigrating to the United States.
A press release from the Philadelphia U.S. Attorney's office states Jabbateh is charged with personally committing or ordering troops under his command to commit: "1) the murder of civilian noncombatants; 2) the sexual enslavement of women; 3) the public raping of women; 4) the maiming of civilian noncombatants; 5) the torturing of civilian noncombatants 6) the enslavement of civilian noncombatants; 7) the conscription of child soldiers; 8) the execution of prisoners of war; 9) the desecration and mutilation of corpses; and 10) the killing persons because of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion."
Jabbateh was granted asylum in the U.S. after applying in December 1998, after answering no to the questions, "Have you ever committed a crime" and "Have you ever harmed anyone else" during his interview with an immigration asylum officer.
Jabbateh later applied for legal permanent residency and again allegedly lied by denying committing fraud in any application, and by responding no to the question, "Have you ever engaged in genocide, or otherwise ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in the killing of any person because of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion?"
“This defendant allegedly committed unspeakable crimes in his home country, brutalizing numerous innocent victims,” U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said in a statement.. “He then sought to escape to the United States where he lied about his criminal background on federal immigration forms."
Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Staton said in a statement, “The United States has always welcomed refugees and those fleeing oppression, but we will not be a safe haven for alleged human rights violators and war criminals."
Jabbateh could face up to 30 years in prison.