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Date Formed:
March 1991
Unknown number of members
Last Attack:
Sept. 5, 2000
Financial Sources:
The RUF has received Libyan arms through their ally Charles Taylor in Liberia, while Burkina Faso has also supported the group. The RUF has also used the sale of diamonds to fund its activities.

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Sankoh, Foday
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Lamin Jusu Jarka, victim of a RUF attack in Freetown
Refugees fleeing RUF arrive in Guinea
RUF Child Soldier
Nigerian Peacekeepers Fighting the RUF
RUF Guerillas
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US Terrorist Exclusion List Designee: Yes
UK Proscribed Group: No
Australia Specified Group: No
Canada Specified Group: No
EU Specified Group: No
Russia Specified Group: No
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The US State Department has designated groups into three different classifications. Click on one of the following to learn more about each group and to access their group profiles.

Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)

Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL)

Other Terrorist Organizations (OTO)

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image Revolutionary United Front (RUF)

Base of Operation: Liberia; Sierra Leone

Founding Philosophy: Many years of corrupt rule under the dictatorship of Siaka Stevens produced widespread desperation in Sierra Leone. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) formed out of this desperation, yet its murderous tactics have long since overshadowed its founding ideologies. The group’s formation began between 1987 and 1988, when a group of 25-50 Sierra Leoneans traveled to Libya and received training under the Qadaffi regime. One of these men, Foday Sankoh, formed the RUF in 1991, “committed to peace, by any means necessary, but … not committed to … becoming victims of peace,” according to the group’s manifesto. The RUF’s first hostile acts occurred in 1991 with attacks on villages near the Liberia-Sierra Leone border, aimed at toppling the regime headed by Joseph Momoh. The RUF was receiving support from Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, and originally based its raids from Liberian territory.

Brutal, inhumane tactics became the group’s trademark. Civilians were often a target, either slaughtered by the hundreds or left with their hands or limbs cut off. The RUF also became notorious for its use of child soldiers, many of whom it kidnapped and conscripted, often forcing the children to inject cocaine before sending them off to fight. The RUF continued to fight the multiple successive governments of Sierra Leone through the 1990s and, with support from Charles Taylor, intermittently occupied the diamond-producing areas of Sierra Leone, contributing to the “blood diamond” trade of West Africa.

Current Goals: The RUF began to suffer major setbacks when Executive Outcomes (EO), a private security firm hired by the Sierra Leonean government, pushed the rebel group back from the capital, Freetown. After this, RUF announced a cease-fire and accepted peace talks with President Kabbah. The RUF continued its attacks during the peace negotiations, and eventually came out in a much stronger position after their implementation, with a more legitimate face in the government.

Disregarding the peace agreement, and encouraged by the subsequent absence of EO from the capital, the RUF again attacked Freetown in February 1998 and was beaten back by a contingent of West-African ECOMOG [Monitoring Group for Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)] peacekeepers. They then began a renewed campaign of terror throughout the interior of Sierra Leone, which they named “Operation No Living Thing.” Civilian casualties numbered in the thousands, and brought about a UN peacekeeping force. A British intervention in 2000, securing the country for UN supervision, finally set the stage for peace. Disarmament of RUF rebels began in May 2001, and the war was officially declared over in January 2002, essentially the end of the RUF. Foday Sankoh died in prison in July 2003 while awaiting trial on charges of war crimes.

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Further Reference
Para-military Groups: Revolutionary United Front (RUF)
Timeline: Sierra Leone
Footpaths to Democracy: Toward a New Sierra Leone
"Brutal Child Army Grows Up," BBC, 05/10/2000
Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2000, U.S. Department of State


Related Categories
Knowledge Base Directory > Groups > Location > Africa > Liberia
Knowledge Base Directory > Groups > Location > Africa > Sierra Leone

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TKB Data Status
Incident data: Last updated on Sept. 10, 2007
Indictment data: Last updated on July 1, 2007

  Data is subject to revision as events and additional information warrant.
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1968 - Present
Incidents Injuries Fatalities
11 1 20
Government 9%
NGO 27%
Business 9%
Other 27%
Religious Figures/Institutions 27%
Data for 1968-1997 covers only international incidents.
Data for 1998-Present covers both domestic and international incidents.

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacked Religious Figures/Institutions target (Sept. 5, 2000, Guinea)

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacked NGO target (Dec. 7, 1999, Sierra Leone)

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacked Government target (May 13, 1998, Venezuela)

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacked Business target (May 18, 1995, Sierra Leone)

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacked Religious Figures/Institutions target (Apr. 10, 1995, Sierra Leone)




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