Liberia

Liberia: Civilians flee renewed fighting in Kley district

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MONROVIA, 4 February (IRIN) - Hundreds of civilians, mainly women and children, fled fighting on Tuesday in Kley District, 37 km west of Liberia's capital, Monrovia, between Liberian government forces and members of the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).
The fighting occurred three days after President Charles Taylor reported that LURD had attacked government troops in the northwestern provincial town of Bopolu, about 100 km from Monrovia.

Civilians who fled to Monrovia with their belongings on their heads told IRIN on Tuesday that they had heard the sound of sporadic gunfire and bombardments coming from the direction of Kley. They said that on Monday, they had heard heavy gunfire from Tubmanburg which, like Kley, is in Bomi County.

There was a heavy buildup of government troops on Tuesday at the Po-River bridge, about 15 km west of Monrovia. Police ambulances could be seen transporting wounded government soldiers to Monrovia. There was, however, no official comment from the government.

Monrovia, remained calm. The National Human Rights Center, whose membership includes nine local human rights organizations, said in a statement on Monday that the humanitarian situation resulting from the renewed fighting was "disturbing". It called on the LURD to cease hostilities, saying that fighting did not augur well for democracy in Liberia.

On Tuesday afternoon, Reuters reported that the rebels had fought a fierce battle with government troops at Cheesmanburg, 18 km north of the capital, and had advanced within striking distance of Monrovia.

Kley and Tubmanburg were captured by LURD in February 2002 but were retaken by government soldiers after two months of fighting. Bopolu, once a stronghold of LURD rebels, was recaptured by government troops in September 2002.

The rebels have been fighting since 1999 to overthrow Taylor.

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