Liberian Rebels Launch New Attacks
By JONATHAN PAYE-LAYLEH
© The Associated Press
KAKATA, Liberia (AP) -- Gunbattles between rebels and government troops
flared anew near Liberia's capital, forcing at least 15,000 civilians to
flee, military officials said Wednesday.
Army commander Francis Dolo said his troops repelled rebels who had attacked
the towns of Heindi and Bong Mines, both about 20 miles northeast of
Monrovia, on Tuesday.
The fighting was the closest to the capital since clashes broke out two
weeks ago at Klay Junction, some 23 miles north of the city.
Winston Kelemeh, a 44-year-old superintendent at a Bong Mines rubber
plantation, said he set off on foot for Heindi early Tuesday but retreated
when he heard gunfire.
Arriving back in Bong Mines, he said he briefly witnessed a gunbattle in the
town center before fleeing to Kakata, 11 miles away.
On Wednesday, hundreds of displaced gathered at Kakata, frantically trying
to hitch rides to flee the fighting.
"Right now nobody can be sure of safety anywhere," said Pewe Johnson, who
was waiting in Kakata with his family of five for transport out of town.
Johnson, however, didn't have the money. Taxi drivers had quickly hiked
fares, in some cases charging $25 for a journey that normally costs $3.
No casualties were reported, but Joseph Holder of the Liberian Red Cross
said one elderly man collapsed and died as he tried to reach Kakata. Justina
Harris, one of the displaced, said a policeman was killed in Heindi.
Rebels have been waging a low-level civil war in the north of Liberia, near
the border of Guinea, since 1999.
Little is known about the insurgents, but they are said to include some of
those who fought against warlord-turned-President Charles Taylor during a
1989-96 civil war. At least some attacks have also been carried out by
undisciplined and illequipped government forces, humanitarian workers and
AP-NY-Wed Feb 20, 2:21 PM ET