Liberian Rebels Attack Near Capital; Many Flee

From: The Washington Post; Contributed by: The Associated Press
© The Washington Post Co.

PO RIVER BRIDGE, Liberia, May 12 -- Small-arms fire erupted today near Liberia's capital, Monrovia, and authorities and fleeing refugees said rebels had attacked a town a half-hour's drive from the city.

"Klay is on fire," Defense Minister Daniel Chea said, confirming fighting in that town and in the northwestern town of Tubmanburg.

Soldiers toting AK-47 assault rifles, many wearing jeans and bands of cloth around their heads, massed at Po River Bridge eight miles north of Monrovia.

The gunfire near Liberia's capital came days after what authorities have depicted as escalating attacks by the West African nation's rebels, pushing well beyond the northern base of their three-year-old insurrection.

Liberian soldiers said they fought for about an hour but ran out of ammunition.

Since Wednesday, the fighting has emptied whole towns and refugee camps in the center of the country.

Following these latest attacks, President Charles Taylor has called almost daily for easing of a long-standing U.N. arms embargo to allow for what Taylor called Liberia's "legitimate self-defense" against the rebels.

The U.N. Security Council on May 6 renewed the embargo and other sanctions for another year, saying Taylor continued to support brutal rebel movements in neighboring Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

AP-WP-Tue. May 12, 2002

© Robert W. Kranz  09-02-2002