Liberia + 1 more

Liberian forces retake town near Ivory Coast

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By Alphonso Toweh

MONROVIA, March 4 (Reuters) - Liberian armed forces have recaptured a strategic town near the West African country's eastern border with Ivory Coast after several days of clashes, a government minister said on Tuesday.

Defence Minister Daniel Chea confirmed reports that the frontier settlement of Toe Town, overrun by rebels of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) last Friday, was now back in government hands.

"The entire area of Toe Town has been cleared by government forces," said a military source, who declined to be named.

"Those in the area now are soldiers from different security units, such as the anti-terrorist unit, the special operations division of police and the regular armed forces of Liberia."

Chea said on Monday that there were heavy clashes between the rebels seeking to oust President Charles Taylor and Liberian troops over the weekend both at Toe Town and nearby villages.

No official casualty figures were immediately available.

The fighting is part of a drawn out rebellion to topple Taylor launched in 2000 from the north of the West African country by LURD. The conflict is a hangover from Liberia's brutal civil war in the 1990s which left 200,000 people dead.

Taylor is a former warlord who started the seven-year civil war in 1989 by launching attacks from Ivory Coast. The conflict was marked by atrocities against civilians committed by both sides. Taylor then won a presidential poll in 1997.

Until recently most LURD attacks had come from their northern bases in Lofa County and forest hideouts closer to the capital. The insurgents battled briefly to the outskirts of the coastal capital Monrovia earlier this year.

However fighting just across the border in the western region of Ivory Coast, divided by its own civil war since September last year, has given Liberians keen to rid their country of Taylor another launching pad for attacks.

Ivory Coast's army said over the weekend small groups of Liberian rebels opposed to Taylor had popped up in the west, taking advantage of the disorder to get a foothold there.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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