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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 10:59 GMT
Liberian rebels seize key town
Queuing up for food in a camp in Monrovia
Thousands have been displaced by the fighting

Rebels have attacked two strategic locations in western Liberia for the first time since launching their insurgency.

The rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) have entered the Vai-speaking town of Robertsport in canoes they had confiscated from Fanti fishermen on nearby rivers, military reports say.

It is less than three days since the leadership of the Lurd said in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital, that it was ready to talk to President Charles Taylor's government, anytime, anywhere, to end the fighting.

Lurd has been trying to overthrow Mr Taylor's government since 1999.

Ivory Coast

The rebels are believed to have met little resistance in Robertsport, and have been in control of the town since they entered it on Tuesday morning.

At least two Fanti canoes loaded with people fleeing the fighting have arrived in a residential slum in Monrovia, confirming the presence of the rebels in Robertsport, military sources said.

A displaced boy carries material to build a hut in the camp
More than 1,000 people recently arrived at a camp in Monrovia

This is the first time the rebels have taken the war to this agriculturally-inactive and under-developed region whose residents are mainly petty traders.

Another report reached Monrovia on Tuesday about an attack on Liberian villages near Toe Town, in the late President Samuel Doe's south-eastern homeland of Grand Gedeh county, on the border with Ivory Coast.

Armed men involved in the attack are alleged to have emerged from the direction of the much-troubled Ivorian town of Toulepleu.

Defence Minister Daniel Chea has confirmed both attacks, but said details were not immediately available.

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The BBC's David Bamford
"Reports of confusion and general panic in the Liberian capital"
News, analysis and background from Liberia's conflict and escalating refugee crisis

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07 Feb 03 | Africa
07 Feb 03 | Africa
05 Feb 03 | Africa
14 Sep 02 | Africa
03 Aug 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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