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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Liberian rebels open new fronts
By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
BBC, in Monrovia

Fierce fighting is raging between Liberian Government forces and rebels for control of a town in the north-eastern border with Guinea.

Defence Minister Chea said on Monday afternoon that after two days of serious fighting in Ganta, government troops moving from two different directions had managed to encircle the rebels.

The attack on Ganta by the rebels of the Liberian United for Reconstruction and Development (Lurd) took place soon after Mr Chea had announced the recapture of the strategically important city of Gbarnga.

The rebels, Mr Chea claimed, are now confined to the centre of town and are running out of ammunitions.

My own information is that local hunters have been mobilised in their hundreds and are assisting government troops in fighting the rebels.

Ganta, about 180km (110 miles) from the capital Monrovia, has historically been seen as President Charles Taylor's military stronghold because he started his then rebellion from there in 1989.

Mounting problems

The fighting around Ganta has left thousands of people displaced .

They are heading to villages and to rural Nimba county to escape the fighting.

President Charles Taylor
New group poses fresh challenges for Taylor

Meanwhile there are also problems in Grand Geddeh County, the home of the late president Samuel Doe.

Government forces and rebels have been battling for control of the provincial town of Zwedru - near the border with Ivory Coast.

I understand that rebel forces captured a by-pass and took government troops by surprise.

My latest information is that Zwedru is currently occupied by the rebels.

Pro-Doe rebels

There are reports that some government troops who were wounded have been taken to hospital in nearby River Ge County.

Sources I spoke to in the relief community, told me the rebels who are fighting in Grand Gedeh appeared to be a new group who are not part of the Lurd rebel movement.

Liberian refugee children
New batch of displaced rush to escape clashes

They said the group is made up of former loyalists of the late President Doe.

When I put this to Defence Minister Chea, he said that the group is the same Lurd group.

"Don't let anybody kid you - even if they come from different names, we still know that they are the same Lurd we've been fighting since 1999," Mr Chea said.




SEE ALSO:
Rebels close in on Monrovia
26 Mar 03  |  Africa
Rebel 'massacres' in Liberia
07 Feb 03  |  Africa
Timeline: Liberia
04 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Liberian troops 'retake town'
29 Mar 03  |  Africa



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