Liberia

Liberia: Fighting reported in southwestern port

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ABIDJAN, 13 February (IRIN) - Fighting between Liberian government troops and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group has spread from western and northern regions to the southwestern Atlantic port of Robertsport, humanitarian sources in Monrovia reported on Wednesday.
Robertsport, 78 km west of the capital, Monrovia, is the provincial capital of Grand Cape Mount county. It is strategic because it would give the LURD access to the sea for possible movement of supplies and open up a new frontline near the border with Sierra Leone, the sources said.

News agencies reported on Thursday that the rebels had overrun Robertsport, but humanitarian sources contacted by IRIN could not confirm this. The BBC reported that the LURD entered Robertsport on Wednesday. The rebels were also reported to be in control of Gbah Town, 50 km west of Monrovia on the main highway to Sierra Leone.

Following fresh fighting, displaced persons continued to arrive at IDP camps around Monrovia, mainly from Kley and Dewoin districts in Bomi county, which is next to Grand Cape Mount. Since 3 February, at least 15,000 new arrivals had been registered in camps for the displaced, humanitarian sources said, adding that they believed the population in the towns of Sinje, Tienne and Bo Waterside, caught behind the front line at Gbah, may have crossed into Sierra Leone.

The recruitment of young and able-bodied persons from the camps around Monrovia by local militias had also been reported. And displaced people who had just arrived in the camps said the rebels were forcibly recruiting civilians in the towns they captured, humanitarian sources said.

The LURD rebels have fought since 1999 to topple President Charles Taylor. Last week they launched a fresh offensive and came close to Monrovia, but loyalist troops pushed them back. They have also said they are ready for peace talks with Taylor, but continued clashes could make such talks difficult.

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