MONROVIA, 21 January (IRIN) - The
Liberian government has said that Liberian ex-faction fighters wearing
Ivorian army uniforms were responsible for an early Monday morning cross-border
raid on its northeastern town of Gbein, Grand Gedeh County close, to the
The government had earlier blamed rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) for the attack, saying while the attack was repelled, two loyalist soldiers were killed and some civilians wounded.
The ex-fighters, Information Minister Reginald Goodridge said, belonged to ULIMO (United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy), a faction formed in Sierra Leone in 1991 to oppose the National Patriotic Front of Liberia then led by Charles Taylor. It split in 1993, leading to the formation of ULIMO-J led by Roosevelt Johnson. In 1997, Taylor appointed some ULIMO leaders into government but others remained opposed to him.
Goodridge told reporters on Monday evening in the capital, Monrovia, that the ex-faction fighters included Generals Philip Menjey, Cuba Jacey and Prince Wageley, all whom were "linked with LURD and were seen wearing Ivorian military uniforms".
The existence of Liberian mercenaries in Ivorian military uniforms, the minister said, had brought a new dimension to conflict in the subregion. "They looted materials such as computers, caterpillar engines from a nearby logging concession," he said. Liberia, he added, was "taking the attack very seriously and had been in contact with the Ivorian government pointing out the presence of known Liberian mercenaries of LURD and their free movement within La Cote d'Ivoire".
On 14 January, the Ivorian consul general to Liberia, Prosper Kotchi, told reporters that there were no Liberian mercenaries within the Ivorian army. Instead, Kotchi said, the mercenaries were active alongside rebel groups fighting the Ivorian government. A former Sierra Leonean rebel commander Sam Boackarie, he added, was fighting alongside one rebel group in Guiglo, western Cote d'Ivoire.
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