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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 23:45 GMT 00:45 UK
Peacekeepers secure Liberian town
A young Liberian rebel carries a puppy in Kakata
With peacekeepers in Kakata, the rebels are now leaving
West African peacekeepers in the Liberian town of Kakata say they have the situation under control, following fighting between government troops and rebels.

It is the first time soldiers of the Nigerian-led peacekeeping force, known as Ecomil, have successfully deployed outside the capital, Monrovia.

Earlier on Tuesday there was serious fighting in Kakata - about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north-east of Monrovia - in the most serious clash since the peacekeepers arrived in Liberia a month ago.

But the peacekeepers stepped in and are now in the process of removing both sides from the Kakata.

The BBC's Mark Doyle in Liberia says the move seems to be a very positive development.

It was not easy to convince the warring factions... to give way, so bullets were flying
Colonel Mark Nyoyoko
Ecomil
International aid agencies and ordinary Liberians in the countryside have been imploring the peacekeepers to deploy outside Monrovia.

Fighting between the factions and looting by militia groups have caused tens of thousands of destitute people to flee their homes.

The Ecomil commander in Kakata, Nigerian Colonel Mark Nyoyoko, told the BBC that the fighting between the government soldiers and the main rebel group - Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) - had been fierce.

"It was not easy to convince the warring factions... to give way, so bullets were flying."

However, our correspondent adds, this successful deployment of 600 peacekeepers in one part of the Liberian countryside does not mean an end to the nightmare of rural Liberians.

Hundreds of thousands of them are still short of food, shelter and medicines.

Violations

Government and rebel fighters signed a ceasefire agreement on 18 August but there have been numerous violations by both sides.

Under the agreement a power-sharing government is to be installed on 14 October, leading to democratic elections in 2005.

The 3,200-strong peacekeeping force sent by the regional grouping, Ecowas, is supported by US troops on standby on warships off Liberia.

The force is expected to reach its intended full strength of just over 3,500 soldiers on Wednesday, with arrival of 250 troops from Benin.

The United Nations is considering sending 15,000 peacekeepers to Liberia, which would make it the largest peacekeeping operation in the world.


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