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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 14:10 GMT
Fighting in northern Liberia

Government forces are fighting to retake the town of Voinjama in northern Liberia, which is reported to have fallen to rebels.

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea, just back from the frontline, accuses Guinea of backing the rebels.

He said the seizure of the town amounted to "an overt declaration of war" by Conakry.

There has been no independent confirmation that the provincial capital of Lofa County has fallen, but Voinjama has changed hands at least once in the past year.

Rebels held Voinjama from approximately July to October 2000.

Liberia and Guinea routinely accuse each other of supporting each other's rebels.

More than 100,000 refugees, mainly from Sierra Leone and Liberia, are currently trapped by fighting in the region of southern Guinea just over the border from Voinjama.

Advance

Reports suggested that government troops have now secured some villages surrounding Voinjama.

Liberian army troops
Liberian troops have secured some villages near Voinjama
Between 20,000 to 30,000 local people have fled the fighting.

According to the government, pick-up trucks have been transporting weapons to the rebels across the border from Guinea every day

Our correspondent in Liberia says that there are hints from defence sources that a one-time "strongman" of the late President Samuel Doe regime could be behind the latest rebel attack

General Julu staged a coup in September 1994 when he briefly occupied the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, but was kicked out by the West African Peacekeeping Force, Ecomog

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See also:

10 Oct 00 | Africa
Civilians flee Liberian rebels
26 Feb 01 | Africa
Aid breakthrough in Guinea
14 Jun 00 | Africa
Liberia: Where rebels roam free
13 Feb 01 | Africa
The Guinea conflict explained
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