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Questions, answers on Africa's blood diamonds, how they originated and preventative measures

A look at blood diamonds, how they originated and what's been done to clamp down on the industry:

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Q. What is a blood diamond?

A. The trade in diamonds originating in conflict zones, sometimes called "blood diamonds," has helped pay for wars in Africa that have killed millions in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo. The diamonds, also known as "conflict diamonds," are usually uncut and acquired by violent means such as forced labor. The diamonds are sold at high cost or traded for arms to support rebels and conflict.

The issue attracted increased public awareness because of the 2006 film "Blood Diamond," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, which showed how diamonds financed Sierra Leone's civil war.

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Q. Who profits from blood diamonds?

A. Rebel movements and corrupt governments trade the diamonds, and use the profits to support their causes.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is accused of supporting the rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during that country's civil war in exchange for diamonds and other natural resources. The 1991-2002 war killed an estimated 500,000 people, with some of the worst atrocities committed by drugged child soldiers.

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Q. What countries are known to produce or have produced blood diamonds?

A. Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo and more recently Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe have been accused of producing blood diamonds.

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Q. What was done to clamp down on the industry?

A. The Kimberley Process is an international initiative established in 2002 to stem the flow of "blood diamonds." Participant nations are forced to certify the origins of the diamonds being traded. This assures consumers that by purchasing diamonds they are not financing war and human rights abuses.

The group consists of states and regional economic organizations that trade in rough diamonds, representing more than 70 countries.

The United Nations also works to monitor illegal diamond trading. For example, it imposed a ban on Liberian diamond exports in 2001 to stop them being used to fuel civil war. The ban was lifted in 2007, after which the country applied to be a part of the Kimberley Process. Sierra Leone and Liberia now are both members of the Kimberley Process.

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Q. How is Naomi Campbell involved?

A. Taylor is on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes stemming from his alleged backing of Sierra Leonean rebels who terrorized victims by chopping off their arms, legs, ears and lips. He has pleaded not guilty and has denied possessing any diamonds as a result of the war. Prosecutors have summoned supermodel Naomi Campbell to testify about reports that she received diamonds from Taylor in South Africa in 1997.

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Q. Have any countries been accused more recently of supplying or supporting blood diamonds?

A. Kimberley Process investigators said last year that diamonds mined in Zimbabwe's Marange fields were dug by virtual slaves ordered to dig or die, and were smuggled by soldiers who rape and beat civilians.

But the Kimberley Process decided those gems don't qualify as "blood diamonds," because they are mined by a government and not a rebel group. Under an agreement in July, Zimbabwe was allowed to sell its controversial diamonds, though human rights groups say abuses continue.

Now Ivory Coast is a main offender under watch by the Kimberley Process. In late October, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend an arms embargo on Ivory Coast and a ban on the export of rough diamonds from that nation for another year, as well as travel and financial sanctions on individuals violating human rights and blocking peace.

Mining in eastern Congo, including of diamonds, is carried out almost entirely by armed groups including government soldiers, and the profits help keep alive a conflict that kills scores every day and has forced more than a quarter million people from their homes.

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Q. How can I know the diamond I am buying is conflict-free?

A. According to The World Diamond Council, the flow of conflict diamonds has been reduced to less than 1 percent. Many countries accused of trading conflict diamonds are now a part of the Kimberley Process and the council argues those countries now need revenue from diamonds if they are to recover from past conflicts.

Still, check with the jeweler. According to the council, a reputable jeweler should only use suppliers who can provide proof and a guarantee that they are selling conflict-free diamonds.