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Sierra Leone: Police investigates death after controversial anti-cannabis operation

The Sierra Leone Police say it is investigating the death of a 29-year old youth following a raid in the north of the country.The incident over the weekend has rekindled debate over police high handedness and impunity with calls on the government to ensure speedy investigation and action.

The incident occurred after a morning raid on two villages in the Mile 91 community in the northern Tonkolili District where police say there had been widespread cultivation of marijuana (cannabis), which is illegal in the country.

According to the police, a joint operation, code named Operation Green Storm, involving the police and military and headed by the Transnational Organised Crime Unit (TOCU) of the police, stormed the villages in the early hours of Saturday. The police say the operation was designed by the Office of National Security in light of increase in marijuana cultivation in parts of the country.

Every single house was searched in the two villages raided, resulting in the confiscation of 709 kg of substance suspected to be cannabis and the arrest of about 30 people. Also arrested were 8 unregistered motor bikes thought to be used by the farmers for the transportation
of their illegal goods.

Critics of the operation, particularly supporters of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), described the operation as illegal. They questioned the fact that the Local Unit Commander of the
Police in Mile 91 wasn’t informed prior to the operation.

The area is an opposition APC dominated region. The police alleged that the youths of the raided villages put up stiff resistance during the operation. A spokesman for the police, Brima
Kamara, said shot guns were fired at police. But he disclosed that the police had mounted an investigation on the issue.

The ONS said the action was prompted by intelligence contained in a briefing to President Julius Maada Bio who approved the operation aimed at containing cannabis cultivation which has been identified as a threat to the food security of the country.

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