Liberian Refugees killed by Faction

News and Press Release
Originally published
By JONATHAN PAYE-LAYLEH Associated Press Writer

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) -- Refugees from the country's civil war were taken hostage by one of the warring factions, then shot to death when rival militiamen attacked their abductors, witnesses said Friday.

Survivors of Thursday's mayhem were pouring into squatters' camps in the capital after fleeing clashes in the northeast, where supporters of the Ulimo-J faction are battling a new faction called the Congo Defense Force. The civilians were killed in Sasstown, about 75 miles northeast of the capital of Monrovia. Tamba Steven, one of the witnesses, said the victims had been abducted by Ulimo-J fighters rampaging through the area.

The hostages, forced to work in the fields to provide food for the fighters, were killed by rival gunmen who ambushed the town, Steven said."I saw four bodies lying in a pool of blood," he said. Other witnesses described civilians, including children and women, being gunned down as they tried to escape to safety.At least 10 people were killed, witnesses said.

Fighting in northeastern Liberia has intensified in the past week, sending thousands of people into the crowded capital of the West African nation. Monrovia itself remains calm following nearly two months of fighting in April and May that wrecked much of the city.

A truce took hold May 27 and militiamen left the city, but their return to the countryside has led to renewed fighting there. Civilians say the newest faction -- the Congo Defense Force -- started as a vigilante force to combat factional attacks on villages, but itself has emerged as a full fighting force battling for control of northeastern Liberia.Like the six other factions in the country's 6 1/2-year-old civil war, its ideologies and the source of its weapons and ammunition are unclear.

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