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Former Taylor Deputy Testifies Rebel Commander Ate Human Flesh

A witness at the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor has testified that rebels under Taylor's command cooked and ate human flesh.

Former Liberian vice president Moses Blah made the comments as he began his testimony Wednesday at the ousted Liberian leader's war crimes trial in a U.N.-backed court at The Hague.

Blah told the court that as a rebel soldier in the late 1980s, he witnessed a commander of one of Taylor's units, Nelson Gaye, roasting and eating a pair of human hands. Blah said all members of the unit Gaye commanded were expected to eat human flesh.

The former vice president also testified that child soldiers were widely used by Taylor's forces, and that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi provided support to Taylor both before after he became Liberia's president in the 1990s.

Blah's testimony is expected to continue Thursday.

Blah briefly served as Liberian president after Taylor was forced into exile in 2003 and is the highest-ranking witness to testify in the trial.

Taylor is the first former African head of state to face international charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He allegedly directed the actions of rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during that state's 10-year civil war - a conflict marked by extreme brutality.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, rape, torture, recruiting child soldiers and pillaging Sierra Leone's towns and villages.

The U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is prosecuting Taylor, moved proceedings from Freetown to The Hague to reduce chances of sparking unrest in the west African state or in Liberia, which borders Sierra Leone on the southeast.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.