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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK
Fighting approaches Liberia's capital
Rebel fighter
Rebels wanted to abduct staff
Liberian rebels have attacked a logging company just 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the capital, Monrovia.

Correspondents say this is the closest the rebels have been to Monrovia in more than a year of fighting, which has mostly been in the northern Lofa county.

A senior defence ministry official told the BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh that 4 soldiers had been killed, along with between 20 and 25 rebels during fighting in Gbopolu.

But a rebel spokesman denied these casualty figures.

Joe Wylie from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, LURD, told the BBC's Focus on Africa that they had gone to Gbopolu to "pay a visit" to government soldiers who, he said, were harassing civilians.

Forcibly recruited

Mr Wylie also claimed that residents of Gbopolu were being forcibly recruited into the Liberian army.

A government source told Reuters news agency that the rebels wanted to abduct staff from the Antel logging company but they were repelled after eight hours of fighting.

Mr Wylie said that LURD forces had targeted the company because, "logging is next to the diamond trade."

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on the Liberian government for allegedly trading diamonds on behalf of Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front.

President Charles Taylor
President Taylor is seen by some as the cause of the region's problems

Logging is one of Liberia's most important industries and Mr Wylie said: "It is logging which keeps the Charles Taylor war machinery going. So we have to discourage them from doing business with Mr Taylor."

The defence ministry source said that a group of unarmed people had accompanied the rebel attackers and these had looted and set buildings on fire.

The war which has returned to Liberia has also spread to Sierra Leone and Guinea, creating thousands of refugees.

The three countries have each accused the other of allowing rebels to operate from their territories.

The foreign ministers of the three countries under the Mano River Union a sub - regionally grouping, agreed last week to hand over rebels to the respective governments.

Jo Wylie, rebel spokesman
"It is logging which keeps the Charles Taylor war machinery going"
See also:

22 Aug 01 | Africa
Fighting flares in Liberia
17 Aug 01 | Africa
Liberia fights 'ghost soldiers'
07 May 01 | Africa
Liberia blasts sanctions
08 Sep 00 | Africa
'Diamond rush' in Liberia
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